I didn't quite pick the right day to make these gingerbread cookies. It was on the afternoon of my High School Reunion and I thought that it would be a good chance to take my mind off it. I had decided to go to the reunion not due in small part to the fact that two friends had contacted me and we had agreed to walk in together. I wrote last week of my trepidation at attending my High School Reunion. For the days preceding the reunion I was indeed going back and forth on whether I'd attend and now the decision was made. I had RSVPd and I _had _to go.
This wasn't a Romy and Michelle revenge situation mind you although I have to say that the movie helped to crystallise High School Reunion anxiety perfectly. It was pretty much a normal cliquey all girls school and nothing to get too upset about. But the idea of the reunion was enough to make one a bit nervous. And whilst I thought these gingerbread cookies would take my mind off it, I didn't realise how long they would take. By the time they were all done and dusted (literally dusted with sugar), it was several hours later standing on my feet and my legs were aching. This was a worry as I had intended to wear high heels that night.
I met my friends beforehand and we walked in. I was a little stunned. It appeared that half of the people had frozen in time and were instantly recognisable whilst others were barely recognisable and this was usually due to hair change or weight gain. Some of the skinniest, prettiest girls were much more generously proportioned and I had to look at their name tags to recognise them and others simply looked nothing like they used to.
People were friendly and chatty and thankfully didn't extend any sympathy when I told them "no kids". In fact there was a complete acceptance of it even though there were only 5 of us in the 100 that attended that didn't have any. I had expected a lot of expensive cars, designer bags or ostentatious displays of success but amazingly there was nothing like that. Rather amusingly people would say to me "You haven't changed at all!" which was worrying since I'd attended High School in the 80s, a time good hair and taste had abandoned. A spiral perm was de rigeur back then and I was hoping I had changed or at least improved from those days! :P
_See Rudolph's missing leg? _:(
So any back to the cookies. I have a love hate relationship with this recipe. There's no shrinkage with the dough which is fantastic even if you only rest it for 30 minutes and it rolls like a dream between two layers of parchment and can be rerolled and rerolled without the cookies suffering even a little. The only negative is that the cookies can be hard to lift once cut and if you have a particularly detailed cutter (i.e. one with very thin pieces like the Rudolph cutter's legs) then it can be an issue but this may well be the case with most cookie doughs. It was also a hot day so the dough was harder to handle. The design inspiration came from Martha Stewart of course who does Christmas like Mrs Claus on ADD medication. Of course mine were nowhere near as pretty as hers but I consoled myself with the fact that she probably has a slew of elves making her cookies and that she didn't have the cloud of a reunion hanging over her head.
So am I glad I went to the reunion? Yes I am. And when the clock struck 11:30pm I felt like I had had quite enough of the standard conversation (What do you do? Where do you live? How many kids do you have?) and left with a friend whom I'd had a bit more of a normal everyday conversation with. I must thank all of my readers who gave me their support either by comments, DM, twitter messages or emails. Now a 20 year reunion with you, I'd gladly go to that.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you ready for Christmas?
GingerBread Snowman, Rudolph and Christmas tree
125g butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
1 egg, separated plus 1 extra egg white
3 to 3 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Plain flour, to roll
300g (2 cups) pure icing sugar, sifted
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
Food colouring as desired
Extras for Snowman
A small amount of orange or mandarin peel cut into small carrot shape for Snowman's nose
Small flower or heart decorations for Snowman's scarf detail
Iridescent small candy balls for buttons
Extras for Christmas Tree
Lots of little candy balls in various colours for Christmas baubles
Stars for the tops of the trees (as you can see mine weren't exactly stars, they were flowers)
Step 1 - Line 2 or 3 baking trays with baking paper
Step 2 - Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Step 3 - Meanwhile, place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add icing sugar and lemon juice and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide icing into separate bowls depending on the desired number of icing colours you want. Tint with the following colours: brown, green, a little blue (fr the Snowman's scarf or whatever colour you'd like for it) and a little pink (for the tinsel on the Christmas tree but of course feel free to make it red or yellow as befits tinsel) and of course leaving some white for the snowman. With the black and red I found it easier to use icing pens as the amount used was so small. Set aside.
Step 4 - Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick. Use flour dipped cutters to to cut out shapes (dip in a bowl of flour between each cut). Place on trays about 3cm apart. Repeat with any excess dough.
Step 5 - Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Step 6 - Place prepared icings in small plastic bags (or use bought icing pens). Cut a small hole in a corner of each bag.
The proportions below assume that you will be making all three kinds of cookies. If you choose to make just the one type of cookie, you're probably more sane than I but you will need to triple the amount of icing you put into the piping bag.
Step 7 - Place 2-3 tablespoons of the white icing into a piping bag or a ziplock bag (make sure to cover the rest of the bowl of icing with cling wrap when it is not in use). The icing should be able to hold a line when you lift up a spoonful of it and let it drip. Pipe a line around the edges of the snowman.When this line is set, add a little water, a few drops at a time to the remaining white icing in a bowl until it is runny. Be sure to stir it well so that the water is well incorporated. With a teaspoon, "flood" the outline of the snowman and use a toothpick to drag out the icing to reach the outer edges. Sprinkle with sugar to simulate snow and add carrot nose made out of orange or mandarin skin. Allow to set for several hours or overnight. Once set, pipe a scarf in blue (or whatever colour you like). Then add eyes and a smile and a flower if you'd like.
Step 8 - Place 2-3 tablespoons of the brown icing into a piping bag or a ziplock bag (make sure to cover the rest of the bowl of icing with cling wrap when it is not in use). The icing should be able to hold a line when you lift up a spoonful of it and let it drip. Pipe a line around the edges of the reindeer. When this line is set, add a little water, a few drops at a time to the remaining brown icing in a bowl until it is runny. Be sure to stir it well so that the water is well incorporated. With a teaspoon, "flood" the outline of the reindeer and use a toothpick to drag out the icing to reach the outer edges. With the white piping bag from the snowman above, draw in the antlers and do a belly and tail detail. Sprinkle some sugar on the antlers. Allow to set for several hours or overnight. Once set, pipe eyes and a red nose (of course!).
For Christmas Tree
Step 9 - Place 2-3 tablespoons of the green icing into a piping bag or a ziplock bag (make sure to cover the rest of the bowl of icing with cling wrap when it is not in use). The icing should be able to hold a line when you lift up a spoonful of it and let it drip. Pipe a line around the edges of the tree. When this line is set, add a little water, a few drops at a time to the remaining green icing in a bowl until it is runny. Be sure to stir it well so that the water is well incorporated. With a teaspoon, "flood" the outline of the tree and use a toothpick to drag out the icing to reach the outer edges. When it is set, Place 2-3 tablespoons of the pink icing into a piping bag or a ziplock bag. Pipe squiggly tinsel lines across the set royal icing and affix the baubles. Pipe a little dot of icing on top and affix the star on top. Allow to set completely.