You know when the universe is trying to tell you something? Well, today was one of those kinds of days for me. I just knew that the universe wanted me to make gingerbread men.
How did I know?
Well, I’ve always wanted to make gingerbread men, even buying the cookie cutter last Christmas. I’d also been to Adriano Zumbo’s Rozelle cafe yesterday and saw a gingerbread house for sale (literally for sale, with the sign advertising 4 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and car space – how cool is that?). Then this morning on TV I saw an Australian chef making a gingerbread house and of course, he made it look so easy! Along with this I hired a baking book from the library which included gingerbread men, and borrowed Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess” which had me in the right frame of mind. With that kind of motivation and the fact I’d been thinking about it all day, what other choice did I really have?
And when did I start making my gingerbread men?
Yep, you guessed it.
I guess you could call it my speciality, these midnight baking sessions. I’ve alsomade a marble cake at midnight and about 4 dozen muffins once at midnight as well, oh and there was also the time I made an upside down apple cake, and then there was the bagels…. [Insert shoulder shrug here], it’s just what I do. Call it a quirk if you must, but I’ll have you know, a damn tasty quirk at that.
Baking paper. You can’t have enough when you are making gingerbread men. The recipe said to roll the dough out between sheets of baking paper. Yeah, well, I could do that or I could save the environment and just use the board I use for making bread. Hmm, well, yeah, listen to the recipe on this one. You can’t get the gingerbread men off the board if you don’t use the baking paper. RIP to the two little guys who got squished into the baking board…
Okay, so that was really tip number 3. I also discovered that the dough is very dry and it takes a while to come together. After my experiences in making bread, I thought all dough just came together really quickly.
Nope. Not this one.
What they don’t tell you is that your hands need to warm up the butter and then the mix will start to combine. Therefore, you’ll need to lose the rings and get your fingers sticky. Don’t you just feel like a kid again?
You’ll also need a hell of a lot of patience. The dough is soft and tears easily. You can only get 1-2 men out of each time you roll the dough flat enough. It does depend on your cookie cutter, and mine is quite big, so you’ll have to play around with this. But have patience. Pretend each one is a beautiful newborn child and treat him with so much care, be so delicate, cause you don’t want to break a bone (or snap off the head as I did with one little guy).
Adjust the cooking time as you go if you’re using more than one tray and therefore making different batches. Because I only have the one amazingly useful and always perfect flat metal baking sheet I had to cook my gingerbread men in 4 batches. The oven got hotter as I went so the first batch had the longest time, and the last batch had the least amount of actual cooking time. And watch your cooking times carefully because even if the little man looks good from outside the oven, he could already be cooked through and then you have nothing but a hard ginger nut biscuit instead of the delicious Christmas treat you were actually aiming for.
And one last tip that will save you time later, and possibly save you face as well. Don’t leave the piping bag in the bowl where it can then fall over and icing mix can then decide to flow the wrong way, leaving a lovely (and tasty) mess for you to clean up. This was so embarrassing after I had just shown off to my husband just how good my baking skills were.
Well, I guess you could call this one part of the cleaning skills, and he already knows that I’m no good at that.
Here’s the recipe I used, and how they looked after I’d unleashed my inner gingerbreadman artist. 🙂