Jolly Gingers: How to make a gingerbread man (and other shapes!)
It's not a bake we often think of doing with kids, but once you've made gingerbread men – or stars, trees, anything you can cut out, really – you will realise how easy they are, and also how much better homemade gingerbread is than shop bought (which I think tastes like cardboard in comparison).
Christmas is a great time to make it, as it's a lovely gift for teachers, relatives or friends – or it would make a nice item to take to a Christmas fair or bake sale. Plus the spice makes it festive too. I make gingerbread men (unfortunately I have no gingerbread 'lady' cutter, as in one with a skirt! Doesn’t that seem terribly old-fashioned now?), stars, trees, snowflakes, and snowmen but you are free to make whatever – hey, you could even go freehand or use this to make a gingerbread house!
I decorate with shop bought standard decorating items like writing icing, silver balls and ready-made royal icing. But I do prefer the taste without so we only tend to decorate a few – it is a really fun activity though; the kids always enjoy it.
Top tips for making gingerbread:
- Do make it in advance and chill. One hour is all you need.
- 'Work' the dough a little – it will feel crumbly and you might panic. By working it (lightly kneading, and just squashing and rolling it a bit, you'll easily get a nice, pliable dough.
- Do use fresh ground ginger – if you use one that's been in the cupboard for 10 years it won't taste very gingery!
- Use liberal amounts of flour when rolling out.
- 350g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 125g cold butter, cut into cubes
- 150g light brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1 egg, beaten
How to make gingerbread:
- Preheat oven to 180C. Line 3 trays with baking paper (or if you only have one then use it 3 times).
- Sieve flour, spices, bicarb and salt, then rub in the cubed butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Tip in sugar and mix. Add beaten egg, syrup and mix with a spoon.
- Do your best to form a ball (it's crumbly) - what I do is squish several lumps of crumbly dough together and put them on the cling film then wrap it tight. Once chilled – about an hour will do – it'll become easier to handle.
- Cut the chilled dough in two. Work the dough, squash it and warm it up a bit. Liberally flour the worktop and roll out – not too thin, about 1cm thick is perfect.
- Cut out and pop on a lined sheet. You'll need about 3 – give them space as they spread a little.
- Bake for 10 mins. Let them chill then decorate if you want to!