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Gingerbread Men

Stalls selling gingerbread were firm fixtures at fairs for centuries, and Elizabeth I is recorded as giving gingerbread figures as gifts. Why not take inspiration from foodie fashions of the past and add in extra flavours – such as anise or caraway seeds, citrus zest, or even finely chopped and candied peel? Alternatively, designs piped in white icing look great against the dark biscuits.

Serves 10-12 Total Time  45 mins, plus chilling time.

Ingredients 

  • 200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting 
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda 
  • 2½ tsp ground ginger 
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 100g unsalted butter, chilled and diced 
  • 100g light soft brown sugar 
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup 
  • 1 large egg yolk


For decorating:

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice 
  • Red food colouring paste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and pinch of salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine sand. Now add the sugar and pulse again until combined. 
  3. Combine the golden syrup and egg yolk in a small bowl, then pour the mixture into the food processor. Pulse until the dough starts to come together.
  4. Tip it onto a clean work surface and gently knead the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hr. 
  5. Lightly dust the work surface with plain flour and roll the dough out to a thickness of 5mm.
  6. Use a gingerbread man cutter to stamp out shapes, then arrange them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving some space between each biscuit.
  7. Gather any dough scraps together, re-roll and stamp out more gingerbread men, or smaller round biscuits. 
  8. Chill the raw biscuits for 20 mins while you preheat the oven to 180ºC/160°fan/gas 4. 
  9. Bake for about 12 mins until starting to brown slightly at the edges. The biscuits will still be soft, so leave to cool on the baking sheets. 
  10. To decorate, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and, beating constantly, then gradually add enough lemon juice to make a smooth icing that holds a firm ribbon trail. 
  11. Scoop all but 2 tbsps of icing into a disposable piping bag. Snip the end into a fine point and use to decorate the biscuits with a pattern of your choice.
  12. If you would like to add another colour to your decoration, add a tiny amount of red food colouring to the reserved 2 tbsp of icing, transfer to an icing bag, as above, then use to pipe red buttons, scarves or boots on your biscuits.
  13. Leave to set for 1 hr before eating or using as decorations.
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