The Autumnal rain has finally given way to clear skies and the temperature is dropping with every day that passes. I had originally written this saying I was half hoping for a mythical white Christmas, and right this second my dreams have been fulfilled (though slightly early!) as I gaze out of the window onto dark street enrobed in the first snows of this winter down here on the south coast.
Christmas is just around the corner and we are finally getting ourselves ready for the holidays. One of last year's Christmas cakes is unwrapped and ready to be decorated with marzipan and candied fruits, rum-mince pies made with fruits that have marinaded all year, and gingerbread for decorating the tree as well as eating, of course.
The gingerbread recipe that I use is less sweet and far more fragrant than traditional crunchy English gingerbread. My daughter & her friends were not that keen on bought gingerbread when she was little so I tried to create something more suited to their tastes. She still likes this now so I haven't changed the recipe or spice blend in years. The biscuits are subtly fragrant with a blend of spices which conjure up, in our household, the start of Christmas. Whilst these baked we put the tree up and the smell of spices mingling with the rich pine tree confirmed that Christmas had definitely arrived in our house. Then, every year, we would snuggle down in fleecy blankets under the light of our advent candle and read a chapter of Jostein Gardner's Christmas Story. I love this Christmas ritual that still continues today, especially as my daughter is no longer the toddler enraptured by a fairy story, but a philosophy-studying young adult who cites this an enjoyable influence on her path to adulthood (I am so glad I didn't choose Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer!).
This recipe can make thick soft biscuits or crisp thin ones. If you are making decorations for the tree then crispier ones are better so roll the dough out to 5mm, bake the cut biscuits for 18 minutes, then allow to cool. Once they are cool, pop them back onto trays and put them back into the re-heated oven for a further 6 minutes, then leave them to cool in the oven. These biscuits will be crispy and robust enough to hang from the tree. If you want soft gingerbread roll the dough out to 8mm and bake for 16-8 minutes until the biscuits are cooked through but still soft. Let these biscuits cool on the baking tray for five minutes before removing to a cooling tray.
These biscuits look great decorated but as the moisture will make the biscuits a little softer it is better to ice them closer to Christmas or when you are going to eat them. My icing nozzles are still tucked away somewhere in the loft so decorating these will happen later this week and I will add some photos later on.
- 70g dairy free margarine or butter
- 125g light muscavado sugar
- 100g golden syrup
- 35g treacle / molasses
- 60 ml rice milk
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 300g rice flour
- 100g millet flour
- 100g tapioca flour
- 60g sweet (glutinous) rice flour
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 2.5 tsp gluten free baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 3 medium freerange eggs (150g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- measure the spices directly into a small saucepan.
- if your scales have a tare function you can weigh the sugar, syrup, treacle and butter directly into the pan
- add the milk and warm the pan on a very gentle heat, keep the temperature low enough to be able to dip your finger in comfortably (not that you need to do this as part of the recipe!)
- sift all the flours together with the baking power and xanthan gum
- beat the eggs and vanilla extract together in a mixer or food processor
- add all the flour and then the sugar mix and beat on the mixer
- once the dough has come together stop the mixer and scrape onto a plate
- cover and chill (either in fridge or outside depending on your weather) until the dough is between 8-14°C
- pre-heat the oven to 150° C
- dust the work surface with a little rice flour and tip out the dough
- divide the dough into 4 sections
- working 1 section at a time, roll out as per instructions in the introduction and cut out using decorative cutters
- if you are making these to hang on the tree, use a straw to punch out a little hole so that you can thread a ribbon through
- place the biscuits on a lined baking sheet and continue with the rest of the dough
- roll and re-cut the trimmings until all the dough is used
- bake as per introduction
- allow to cool completely then pack into airtight containers to store for icing.