Tag Archives: bicarbonate of soda

Gingerbread

I love making a gingerbread house at Christmas time.  However, I’m never any good at eating it.  When you’ve worked so hard to assemble this work of edible art it’s heartbreaking to have to destroy it.  Therefore I thought what about a gingerbread village?  Little houses so you could eat them one at a time and not feel bad for destroying your entire creation!  So that’s what I did. 

These have been a labour of love I tell you!  I actually made the gingerbread weeks ago but never quite had the time to sit down and get on with putting them together.  As a result I ate a bunch of the sweets I had been going to use and there were more than a few breakages and someone, I’m looking at you dad, ate a roof tile.  In theory this recipe makes 6 little gingerbread cottages.  I got 3.  But such is life. 

This gingerbread dough isn’t perhaps the ideal one you’re looking for to make houses but it does make an excellent biscuit.  It spreads a little inconsistently while baking so I got some wonky bits and the dough is easiest to work with while still warm, after that it starts to crack a little while you’re handling it.  For that reason I haven’t given you the pattern I used for my houses, but they were about 3″x4″.  Next year I’ll be trying a different recipe for my houses but for biscuits to eat or hang on the tree I think this could be a winner. 

  Makes 6 3″x4″ houses or, in theory, 1 large house.  Make 1/2 if for biscuits unless you need dozens. 

250g unsalted butter
200g dark muscovado sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and find every baking tray in the house. 
– Melt together the butter, sugar and syrup in a large pan. 
– Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger in a large mixing bowl and mix them together. 
– Pour the melted butter mixture into the flour and mix well with a spoon until a dough is formed. 
– Roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm.  (You will have to do this in batches unless you’re very good and have a large work surface.)
– Cut out your shapes and place on lined baking trays. 
– Bake for 10-12 minutes watching carefully because it is very easy to burn these.  Try to get the houses each on one tray so they’re a consistent colour. 
– Allow to cool on the trays for 5 minutes until hard then cool completely on a wire rack. 
– Repeat for the rest of the batches. 

To assemble the houses I use a ‘glue’ made from 200g icing sugar and 2-3 tbsp boiling water.  You can use royal icing if you want it to be stronger but this tastes much better.  I pipe strips of icing down the edges of the ‘sides’ then carefully press all 4 walls together, you may need an extra pair of hands for this part.  Then I allow that stage to dry.  Once dried I put on the roof tiles again by piping strips of icing all around the top of the house then very gently pressing down the tiles.  Then I pipe a line along the apex.  The chimneys, if making, are done in almost exactly the same way.  I leave the houses to dry, preferably for an hour, then get on with decorating with sweets using the same kind of ‘glue’ to stick everything on. 

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Filed under Christmas, Cookies and Biscuits, Moderately easy

Last Minute Christmas Cake

I have to say I’m cheating a little here with my own rules as I haven’t ever cooked this on my own.  In fact my participation has only ever advanced to weighing ingredients and helping fill cake tins.  Christmas is my mum’s domain.  She’s been doing it for years and she’s on a roll, my interference is not needed!  However, I had to share this cake recipe with you as it really is a last minute cake.  It doesn’t need to mature and if you’re forgotten to buy a cake and you’re totally desperate, well, start now! 

Makes 1×8″ (20cm) cake

125g butter
500g mixed dried fruits
125g dates, stoned and chopped (or apricots or prunes, big fruits are what you’re after.)
175g brown sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml water
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon

90g glace cherries, chopped
60g chopped mixed nuts
45ml brandy
250g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder

– In a large pan melt the butter and then add the dried mixed fruits, dates (or other fruits), sugar, bicarbonate of soda, water, mixed spice and cinnamon. 
– Bring this to the boil and cover.  Simmer for 15 minutes. 
– Leave the pan, covered, overnight. 
– The next day put it in a mixing bowl, or use a machine like a kitchen aid or kenwood chef to do the hard work!
– Add the cherries, nuts and brandy.  Mix a little. 
– Add the flour and salt and mix in. 
– Add the eggs and the baking powder and then mix thoroughly making sire everything is well combined. 
– Line an 8″ cake tin with foil, shiny side down, and 2 layers of greaseproof paper. 
– Brush lightly with oil. 
– Tip in the cake mix and level out the top.  Create a small dip in the middle with the back of a spoon to prevent doming. 
– Place a small ovenproof dish or tin of water in the bottom of an oven heated to gas mark 2. 
– Place the cake in the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours covering the top with foil after 1 hour. 
– Test with a skewer to see if it’s done.
– Cool in the tin then turn out and pour on a little more brandy before either wrapping and storing or covering with marzipan and icing.

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Filed under Cakes, Christmas, Easy