I didn't really like gingerbread when I was little, but whenever we went to Pizza Hut I begged and pleaded for a Gingerbread Man. I'd eat all the icing, and pick at the gingerbread, wishing there was more icing. Thinking back now, I'm not sure whether I didn't really like gingerbread, or if I just didn't really like Pizza Hut gingerbread. My days of thinking that Pizza Hut's all-you-can-eat was THE meal of choice for a special birthday celebration are long behind me, and I'm pretty sure that they don't even make Gingerbread Men any more, so this may forever remain one of life's mysteries.
Despite getting off to a rocky start, gingerbread and I now get along famously. Instead of taking me back to feelings of eating too much pizza and going overboard at the dessert bar (oh man I so badly wanted one of those in my house!!) it now makes me think of Christmas and Sweden and snow and glögg. I've had a hankering for glögg ever since the festive season kicked into gear, but it's just not doable in 35 degree weather. Beer is definitely winning out as drink of choice, but doesn't pair with gingerbread quite so nicely (even if it's ginger beer).
I first made this gingerbread recipe for Christmas gifts last year, evidence of which you can see in my blog header figure. I liked the recipe so much that it has now apparently made it into my Christmas gift recipe collection. Making these cookies is also a great antidote to all the food and booze sneaking its way into your system at this time of year, as rolling out the chilled dough requires the strength of twenty atom bombs for a fair bit longer than twenty seconds. If you're struggling with this, just let the dough warm a little more - warmer dough isn't as easy to work with once rolled, but you'll still get fine results.
Ginger Christmas Biscuits
Makes roughly 75 biscuits
1 cup (160g) brown sugar
1/2 cup (175g) treacle
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups (600g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1. Melt the butter, brown sugar, treacle, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a saucepan over a medium heat. Set aside.
2. Stir in the eggs and vanilla essence. Stir in the flour and baking powder until smooth. Divide the dough into 3 portions. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm.
3. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with nonstick baking paper. Using seemingly every muscle fibre in your body, roll out 1 portion of the dough to 4mm thick between 2 sheets of baking paper (the top layer of paper may not be necessary, depends on your rolling pin). Use Christmas cookie cutters to cut out biscuit shapes. Place on the trays.
4. (At this point you can use the end of a piping nozzle to make a hole in the top of each biscuit, and then once they're baked you can use ribbon to string them up on your tree). Bake for 5-10 minutes or until golden and firm (this takes a bit of trial and error to figure out how long to bake them for, and also depends on how soft/crisp you want them). Repeat with the remaining dough portions. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
I had some dough scraps left over so I got out my alphabet cutters and spelled out the names of the toddlers of some of the people I was giving these treats to, so they'd have their own little special tiny treats. I'm glad none of them were called Wilhelmina or Bartholomew.