Gingerbread Biscuit Christmas Tree Decorations

As part of my Christmas baking plans I thought I would make some gingerbread tree decorations.

I love gingerbread; it is one of my favourite biscuits. The only problem with that is I find it hard to only eat one at a time. I usually discover I have eaten three in a row without realising it!

I have tried various gingerbread recipes over the years but this is by far my favourite.

Recipe

400g Plain Flour

1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

2tsp Ground Ginger

2tsp Cinnamon

1tsp Ground Nutmeg

½tsp Allspice

180g Salted Butter (softened)

125g Light Brown Sugar

125g Treacle

1 egg

Method

  1. Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and all spices into a bowl. I don’t sift this but you can.
  2. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together. I use a paddle attachment on the freestanding mixer. You could also use a handheld whisk.
  3. Once light and fluffy add the egg and treacle*. Scrape down the sides to ensure a through mix
  4. Add the flour mixture slowly on a slow speed (unless you fancy doing a ghost impression for the post man who invariably turns up at this point wanting a signature!). Ensure you scrape down the sides.
  5. Once a dough has been formed take it out of the mixture and wrap it in clingfilm. Place this in the fridge for 4-6 hours to fully rest. If you want to rest it for less time split the mixture into ¾ portions. Once it is hard it is ready for rolling.
  6. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  7. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. I use baking spray to secure this to the tray but I don’t spray the top of the paper where the biscuits will be.
  8. On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/2cm thick.
  9. Cut into desired shapes. I used round, holly leaves and snowflakes for this bake.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Leave the biscuits to cool for a few minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

*I have never worked out the best way to measure this out. However, what I do is place the treacle pot on my scales (digital will be easiest to do this with). I then ‘tare’ the amount so it shows as zero. I slowly spoon out the treacle bit by bit until the amount shows ‘-125g’. I don’t know if this is right but it seemed logical to me and it seems to work.

This makes a really dark gingerbread, which I personally prefer but I know lots of people prefer a lighter gingerbread. In this instance I would simply replace the treacle with golden syrup. The amounts required are roughly the same.

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To decorate I have used Royal Icing. You could also use Candy Melts if you preferred and they would work just as well.

Royal Icing

660g Icing Sugar, sifted

20g Pasturised Egg White Powder (or 4 egg whites)

½tsp Cream of Tartar

Method

  1. Prepare the egg white powder as per instructions. Usually this is mix with 50mls of water per 10g. But please double check.
  2. Mix in the powder until no lumps left and there is a think layer of bubbles.
  3. Put in the mixer with the cream of tartar and start whisking.
  4. If using egg white place these in the mixer and whisk until frothy with the cream of tartar.
  5. Slowly add in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, ensuring it is well combined after each addition.
  6. Mix on a medium speed for 15-20 minutes until bright white and stiff with a smooth texture.

For these decorations I used the royal icing in stiff and flood consistency. I don’t line the shapes before flooding. I simply use a scribing tool to bring the icing slightly closer to the edge if I need in small circular movements. This also removes any air bubbles that you do not want! To combine the water I use a spray to ensure I don’t add too much at once. For the stiff consistency I was looking for a toothpaste type mixture. For the flood consistency much more water is required. This is also referred to as 20 second consistency because when all the water is mixed in if you draw a line through the mixture (and into it) with a knife or skewer this line should disappear without a trace at 20 seconds. Not before or after.

If you add too much water then the best and only way to effectively thicken the icing again is to add more of the stiff royal icing. Simply adding icing sugar will make it grainy.

Once the biscuits are iced I leave them out over night to set or for at least four hours.

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For the colours I used:

Red: Squires Kitchen in ‘Poppy’

Green: Sugarflair in ‘Holly’

I also tinted some white icing with Squires Kitchen Teddy Brown, which I then painted with edible gold lustre.

To make the lustre into a paintable liquid add some alcohol to the dust. The reason you use alcohol is alcohol evaporates really quickly so it doesn’t dissolve the icing like water would. I like to use vodka because it is flavour and colourless so it doesn’t alter anything.

I added some silver ball dragees to the snowflakes and so silver lustre dust to make them a little sparkly.

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Oh and because I totally forgot to say I made the holes for the ribbon in the snowflakes and baubles using a straw from one of the girls sippy cups when I cut out the dough! I think any large straw would work. The holes did close up a little during baking which I expected but they were still large enough for a thin ribbon to fit through.

The final product: Ta Dah! (Ok, I know I’ve already put picture above but just pretend this is a grand reveal for me… Please.)

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Christmas Brownies

This post features on Bad Mum Magazine if you would like to check it out there and other fabulous articles highlighting the highs and lows of Motherhood.  We’re all in this together and our best is all we can do.

Who doesn’t love brownies? Ok, potentially a lot of people but we are not some of them! These are a firm favourite in our family and it has been a long time since I have made any. How could I resist a Christmas theme at this time of year?

I am a self confessed perfectionist when it comes to baking. Most things I make are designed to look perfect, they require precision and often a steady hand. The end result isn’t always what I had in mind and I am my harshest critic. I want to teach my girls how to bake and decorate but I struggle to give up some of the control. Brownies are perfect to do this with, they are not meant to look perfect. They should be rough around the edges and homely.

The recipe I have used for years is one from Humming Bird Bakery. It is gooey and because it uses real chocolate it has a very intense flavour. Ordinarily I don’t fiddle around with it but this time I added the zest of three oranges for a Christmas flavour twist to it. (I wanted to make it with a gingerbread flavour but Hubby told me I was insane and that would be disgusting…. I think it would taste nice. No?)

To ensure a smooth baking experience, prepare everything in advance. Measure out all of the ingredients into bowls and have any equipment and utensils to hand. Things can get forgotten or burnt/over mixed if you aren’t prepared.

‘By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’ Benjamin Franklin.

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To line a square tin this is how I cut the greaseproof paper, then I use a fry spray to stick it to the tin.

I melted the chocolate myself, as I didn’t want Pinky to get a steam burn. When melting chocolate ensure that the heatproof bowl you use fits snuggly in the saucepan without touching the bottom. If the bowl touches the bottom of the pan or the water you put in it the chocolate will burn and taste extremely bitter (not in a good chocolate way). If you get water in the chocolate it will split and go grainy. Yuk!

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Before adding the other ingredients I added the orange zest to the melted chocolate to ensure it mixed in well and didn’t clump. You could also use an orange essence but I haven’t found one I like yet. If anyone knows of a good essence brand let me know!

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Look at the serious face!

I use two square brownie tins when I am making these. This is bigger than the recipe recommends so mine come out thinner than intended but I like them this way. Because it is such a rich flavour it can get a bit sickly. I have always cut them up into small pieces but now I spread the mixture more the portion size can be cut bigger.

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I cooked these for 40 minutes at 180oC. The recipe says they should be done after 35 minutes. I learnt a long time ago (due to mistakes) that every oven runs at a different temperature. I have made these in 30 minutes before and I have also used an oven that meant they took over an hour to bake! The best way to check is get an oven thermometer. I don’t actually have one but I now know my oven well enough to know where the heat spots are and how accurate the temperature actually is. Use your instincts basically.   Baking can be all about trial and error.

Once these are done and cooled completely I cut them up into triangles. I had every intention of trying to make them all the same size… That didn’t happen (give it up love it doesn’t matter).

I decided to use some Candy Melts I had in the cupboard to decorate. These can be melted using the same method for chocolate or in the microwave. Once melted put in a piping bag (carful this is warm!) and pipe however you like. You could dip the brownie straight in if you wanted*. Then I added some smarties and sprinkles to finish the look (thanks to Pinterest for the inspiration).

*The candy melts are quite thick once melted which is ideal for piping rough details. Add a little vegetable fat to thin the mixture out if you are dipping (I would anyway). Be careful not to add too much fat, but if you do, add more candy melts to thicken it up a little again. Little by little is the key. Candy Melts can also be reused, if you have some left at the end leave to cool, it will harden at room temperature, then place in a sealed plastic bag until you want to use them again.

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I gave Pinky some triangles to decorate and she had so much fun. I use a cable tie at the top of the piping bag, which stops any mix coming out of the top. I find this useful myself but it even more effective for a three year old who doesn’t really have the two hand piping coordination. I put the smarties and sprinkles into bowls for her because, as I suspected, things got a little messy and no one would want to re use they ones she didn’t need!

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Spot the cable tie

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The final result….

TaDah!

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Perky trying to steal her sisters creations! Didn’t Pinky do a lovely job?
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Admissions Of A Working Mother

My October Baking Showcase

October has been an extremely busy baking month for me.  First there was the Cake and Bake Show which certainly gave me more inspiration than I knew what to do with!  Then there was Hubby’s birthday and what is the point in having a baker for a life if she can’t make you a decent cake? So I did!  Then a friend had asked me to make her daughters birthday cake for her.  I was so flattered to be asked I was never going to say no.

So here is a round up of what I made.

First up were Chocolate and Lime Macarons.  I made green macarons and filled with with a dark chocolate ganache and a homemade lime curd in the middle. (These were really good).

 

Obviously in the interest of jumping on the blogger Halloween train I made some Halloween Biscuits.

Next up, after a suggestion from another friend, I made Gin and Elderflower Macarons.  This time they were grey macarons filled with an elderflower buttercream and a gin and tonic jelly.

 

Pinky requested pink cake… Obviously it had to be pink! So together we made some pink Vanilla Cupcakes with a Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream.

 

Up next was Hubby’s birthday cake.  I took this opportunity to make two types of cake I had always want to try in one go.  A Sprinkle Piñata Cake.  The smarties in the middle were a huge surprise to him.  It had to be smarties as they are his favourite.

 

Lastly the birthday cake for my friends little girl.  I was given a brief of a chocolate cake and a picture of the sort of thing she wanted.  This was my interpretation and I was very please with it…. I hope my friend was too.

 

November will be filled with baking but it is unlikely to be this full….  Hopefully one day soon I will be able to bake even more than this.

National Baking Week: Cadbury Double Decker Recipes

I will admit I wasn’t s massive chocolate lover until my second pregnancy where Flakes became a standard craving.  Now I eat chocolate all the time and I often find myself baking chocolate flavoured delights.

I was asked if I would share these recipes on the blog and since they all looked so tasty and easy to follow I was more than happy to oblige.  Let me know if any of you try these and please feel free to tag me in your pictures or blog posts.  I’d love to see how you all got on.

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