How is it the 1st December guys?? I can’t believe how much has happened this year but to an extent I’m glad to see the back of it and starting the new decade with a fresh mind set! But before we get to 2020, let’s finish off 2019 with some Christmas spirit! I have been working on various different traditional Christmas dishes recently and hope to share as much with you guys in the lead up to the 25 December!
I actually hosted my first Christmas lunch of the season yesterday (yes I know it was November but…) here in Italy with my friends and introduced them to a bunch of traditional dishes (as far as the supermarkets would allow me)! I kept it [fairly] simple and stuck to just mains and dessert but the menu consisted of:
Orange spiced roasted duck
Pigs in blankets
Honey roasted parsnips & carrots
Braised red cabbage
Sprouts with pancetta & chestnuts
Mince pies (thanks to M&S)
Homemade panettone bread & butter pudding
It was a great test run for me for Christmas Day as I have been put in charge and it meant I got to test some recipes – you will see some of the above come your way over the next couple weeks! Everything went down a treat (including the sprouts) and everyone left 10kg heavier. I will also be whipping up some dishes with the minimal leftovers we have as that is what post-Xmas cooking is all about!
First up – Gingerbread men! Great to make ahead and have kids decorate – or in my case, 4 adults decorating on a Friday night! We couldn’t find golden syrup over here and didn’t fancy making it, so we gave it a go with maple syrup and honestly it works just the same! Got my sister working on this one as I pretty much poured in the ingredients and she did all the hard work – shout out to Chiara for that! We also had to improvise with the icing using food colouring and bamboo skewers but I think it gives character.
Makes around 30-40 biscuits depending on size of cutters
Prep time: 25 minutes + 2 hours chill
Cook time: 15-20 minutes per batch
Decorating time: As long as your patience lasts!
125g unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
125g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp water
Method – Gingerbread
In a large mixing bowl, cut the softened butter into cubes, add sugar and beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add beaten egg and maple syrup and beat to combine using a wooden spoon.
Sift flour, bicarb, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg into the butter mixture. Stir to combine using the wooden spoon until a dough forms.
Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth – this could take 5-10 minutes.
Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for around 2 hours or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Line baking trays with baking paper.
Place the dough disc back onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll out until it’s around 0.5cm thick.
Get your kids involved now, and using whatever cutters you have (we used gingerbread men, Christmas trees, snowmen and stars), cut shapes from the dough and carefully place onto the baking trays. Don’t over crowd the biscuits as you risk them sticking together.
Bake for around 15-20 minus until they are slightly darkened and firm to the touch. Let them rest on the tray for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack so they cool complete.
Repeat the process with the remaining dough, knead it back into a ball, re-roll it out and keep cutting until you have minimal dough left. If you want to create Christmas decorations, use a straw to cut holes into the top of the biscuits before you bake them!
Now to get decorating!
Make sure the biscuits are completely cooled before doing this!
I recommend 125g icing sugar for each colour icing. We use plain (white), red and green icing.
Method – Icing sugar
In a small bowl, add icing sugar and gradually add water. Mix to combine – it will quickly turn into a thick paste, if you need it thinner, add more water but be careful not to add too much as the icing will be too thin to work with.
Add a couple drops food colouring into the bowl and stir until well combined and all the icing is the same colour.
Use thin bamboo skewers to create designs on the gingerbread and leave to dry completely before storing in an airtight container.