Gingerbread is synonymous with the festive season & whilst the term ‘gingerbread’ is given to a broad range of sweets, I think most of us picture a crunchy, spiced biscuit. We’ve been making gingerbread biscuits since the 15h century here in Europe, primarily made using spices, ginger & treacle.
Whilst early gingerbread was made as a biscuit, it took on different forms from region to region. For example, in Germany, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Lebkuchen (or my house for that matter), a much softer, cake-like version usually doused in a thin coat of icing. In Britain though the word ‘gingerbread’ meant ‘preserved ginger’, owing to the preservative effect of ginger on our sweet breads & cakes.
I’ve tried a lot (like way too many) gingerbreads in my time, mostly on my travels. I have a knack for finding all things Christmas wherever I go, even in the middle of July (one of my many extremely useful life skills). With far too many gingerbread recipes scribbled down in my recipe book, it’s hard to chose a favourite, so instead I choose a favourite from each category of gingerbread, a cake, a showstopping cake &, of course, a biscuit.
It’s taken me years to find the perfect recipe for gingerbread biscuits, the one that has enough spiciness & sweetness, a deep, golden colour, sturdy enough for some Christmas construction projects & that characteristic snap. Many tweaks & years later, I’m happy to have settled on my perfect gingerbread biscuit.
They’re perfect dunkers, constructors & cutters, this dough really can take quite a lot of abuse. Cut into seasonal shapes with your favourite cutters (it’s not all about the gingerbread men folks) or use it to create a masterpiece house. The dough can even be kept in the fridge for a few days if you’ve got any leftovers. I usually make a double batch of this just so that I can make biscuits for myself, biscuits to gift in hampers & enough leftover to get my creative juices flowing constructing a massive gingerbread house.
(makes around 30 biscuits or one large gingerbread house)
- 4 tbsp golden syrup
- 2 tbsp black treacle
- 150g soft light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 tsp ginger
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 190g butter, cubed
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 500g – 520g plain flour
For the royal icing decoration:
- 1 egg white
- 260g – 300 icing sugar
- Place the syrup, treacle, sugar, milk & spices into a large saucepan & gently heat until everything has melted together
- Remove the pan from the heat & tip in the cubed butter, stir it through until it has all melted
- Place a sieve over the pan & sift in half of the flour along with all of the bicarbonate of soda
- Stir through all of the flour until it is well incorporated before sifting over the remaining flour
- Stir this through until it begins to form a dough, you may need to add in a little more flour, do this 10g at a time until your dough it smooth & pliable (like playdough)
- Use your hands to finish bringing the dough together & shape into a ball
- Flatten the ball of dough slightly to form a disc shape then wrap in some cling film or a beeswax wrap
- Leave the dough to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes
- Once chilled, roll out your dough on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of roughly 1/2 cm thick (the same as a £1 coin)
- Use your favourite shaped biscuit cutter to cut out your biscuits & lay them flat on a parchment lined baking tray (the biscuits won’t spread so you can afford to pack them on tightly)
- Gather & re-roll your dough trimmings & continue to cut out more biscuits until you run out of dough
- Bake the biscuits in the oven at 180C for 12-15 minutes, they will start to deepen in colour along their edges, then you know they’re done
- Leave the biscuits to cool on their tray for 10 minutes as they continue to firm up before removing & placing on a cooling rack
- To make the icing, in a small jug or bowl lightly whisk up your egg white before sifting over the icing sugar
- Mix the two together until you have a thick, pipeable icing, you may need to add in more icing sugar for this, as no two eggs will be exactly the same size
- Add the royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a round no.2 icing nozzle & decorate to your hearts content!