Look at what I bought the other day…
I was shopping for cookie cutters for my niece but I couldn’t resist this little guy and had to get him for myself. Truth is, I’ve never actually had a “proper” gingerbread man cutter. My childhood gingerbread men usually involved a (perfectly functional) homemade template of stiff cardboard. However, I felt that the time had come for some grown up gingerbread men in my life.
But what recipe to use?
I had quite specific notions about what I was looking for in a gingerbread man – that being a texture that would be a little cake-like, dry but not crisp and with a good ginger bite. I had scanned the various recipes that had come my way of late but, in the end, I decided to go it alone, combining ideas from a few different sources. It’s not radically different from other gingerbread recipes but it achieved the bite I was looking for by way of some fresh ginger and cayenne pepper and the texture was spot-on.
That alone would have been pretty good, but there’s more.
I was eating one of my gingery men and was…
- thinking that pieces of this would work very nicely as a dessert with some vanilla ice-cream
- trying to describe the texture to myself
when it came to me that what I had created was not unlike a kimberley biscuit (that’s biscuit in the Irish sense, meaning cookie, not the scone-like things called biscuits in the States). Kimberleys are one of the classic trinity of Irish biscuits (the others being Mikado and Coconut Creams) and consist of a sandwich of 2 cakey ginger biscuits with a sugary mallow filling.
I did seek some second opinions on the kimberley comparison and KD’s verdict was that my ginger men were not as moist as kimberleys and had a sharper ginger kick, which I had to agree was a pretty accurate assessment. The important thing, however, insofar as there was any comparison to be made at all, was the inevitable conclusion regarding the addition of a coating of chocolate. In this I refer to the commonly-held opinion that, while kimberleys are pretty good on their own, whoever thought of bringing out chocolate-covered kimberleys was really onto something…
So, by that rationale, I could certainly pimp my ginger guys with a coating of chocolate or, even better, sandwich them kimberley-style with, say, a lemon ice filling before putting on their chocolate coats. At the very least, I could add some chocolate sauce to a dessert of vanilla ice-cream and gingerbread and be on to a winner. These men had endless possibilities!
Spud’s Own Gingerbread Men
The Dry Ingredients:
- 280g self-raising flour
- 0.5 tsp ground ginger
- 0.5 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of ground cloves
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- pinch of salt
The Not-So-Dry Ingredients:
- 1 tblsp fresh root ginger, grated
- 50g demerara sugar
- 50g black strap molasses or treacle
- 90g unsalted butter or margarine
- 1 egg
- Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and flour 2 large baking sheets
- Sift the flour along with the other dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
- In another bowl, cream the butter or margarine and sugar using a wooden spoon or mixer.
- Add the molasses and combine well.
- Beat the egg lightly and then beat it into the sugar mixture.
- Stir in the grated ginger.
- Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the mixture. When fully incorporated, you should have a soft dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll to a thickness of about 0.25in.
- Cut the gingerbread men (or other shapes) using a floured pastry cutter.
- Carefully transfer the men to the prepared baking sheets (for this I used a palette knife).
- If you like, you can decorate with raisins or nuts for eyes etc. or wait until afterwards and ice them or give them that coat of chocolate.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes. They’ll puff up a little and crack slightly, but they shouldn’t spread and should be faintly springy to the touch.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool.
- Makes about 25 x 4in tall gingerbread men