It’s crunch time!

Felic­ity Cloake’s ginger­bread

The Guardian - Feast - - Front Page - Felic­ity Cloake

For­get glit­tery aubergines and hand-tied wreaths: the best dec­o­ra­tion is an ed­i­ble dec­o­ra­tion, prefer­ably home­made. Sweetly spiced ginger­bread of the crunchy nut va­ri­ety, rather than the sticky cake or crumbly Cum­brian kind, is the ideal material for stars and trees – or even the odd fes­tive di­nosaur. Dec­o­rate gaudily, tie with rib­bons and try not to eat them all before the big day.

1 Cream the but­ter and sugar

Put the soft­ened but­ter in a bowl and beat briefly to break it up. Add the sugar and beat again un­til there are no lumps and the mix­ture is well com­bined – you can use a wooden spoon for this if you’re feel­ing strong, or the beat­ing tool on a food mixer, which will be quicker and eas­ier.

2 Add the egg

Break the egg into a cup or jug and beat with a fork to mix the yolk and white. Very grad­u­ally beat the egg into the but­ter and sugar mix­ture, a lit­tle at a time so it doesn’t cur­dle. If it does start to look grainy, don’t worry – just add a lit­tle flour to bring it back to­gether.

3 Add the dry in­gre­di­ents

Put the flour, bak­ing pow­der, salt and spices in a sep­a­rate bowl and whisk to mix and help break up any lumps. Now stir them into the but­ter and sugar un­til the mix­ture comes to­gether into a dough. Stir the finely chopped crys­tallised ginger or dried apri­cots into the dough as well.

4 Roll out the dough

Spread a large rec­tan­gle of cling­film on a work sur­face and put the ginger­bread dough on top. Cover it with an­other large rec­tan­gle of cling­film, then gen­tly roll out with a rolling pin un­til the dough is about the thick­ness of a £1 coin. Trans­fer to a bak­ing sheet or chop­ping board, and re­frig­er­ate for 30 min­utes.

5 Cut out the bis­cuits

Mean­while, heat the oven to 190C (180C fan)/gas 6 and lightly grease two bak­ing sheets. Re­move the top layer of cling­film, cut out the bis­cuits us­ing cookie cut­ters of what­ever shape you like, then ar­range on the bak­ing sheets, leav­ing a couple of cen­time­tres be­tween each one, so they have room to spread out while they bake.

6 Now to bake

Bake for 10 min­utes. Make sure you have a skewer or cock­tail stick ready and, as soon as you take the bis­cuits out of the oven, poke holes big enough to thread a rib­bon through in the top – it’s im­por­tant to do this when the bis­cuits are still warm, be­cause if you wait un­til they cool, they will break.

7 Let them cool

Very gen­tly trans­fer the bis­cuits to a wire rack (they will still be soft, but don’t worry – they’ll crisp up as they cool) and leave to cool com­pletely before you be­gin to ice them. If you put the ic­ing on when they’re too warm, it will just run off.

8 The dec­o­ra­tion

If you want to ice the bis­cuits, sift the ic­ing sugar into a wide bowl to get rid of any lumps. Stir in just enough boil­ing wa­ter to make a smooth paste, then dip one face of each bis­cuit in the ic­ing. Sprin­kle with hun­dreds and thou­sands, if us­ing, then put back on the rack to set.

9 Fin­ish­ing touches

Al­ter­na­tively, dec­o­rate the bis­cuits with writ­ing ic­ing or melt some choco­late in a heat­proof bowl set over a pan of boil­ing wa­ter (or in the mi­crowave) and driz­zle over the cooled bis­cuits. Poke through the holes again if they be­come clogged with ic­ing, then thread through a rib­bon or a piece of string, to hang up the bis­cuits with.

2 Now start the dough: beat to­gether the sugar and but­ter, then add the egg, but go gen­tly or the mix may cur­dle

1 As­sem­ble the spices, chop up the ginger, and add to a bowl of flour, salt and bak­ing pow­der

5 Roll out the dough be­tween two sheets of cling­film, cut out any shapes you like, then bake 9 Now the fun part: dec­o­rate the bis­cuits fes­tively – but don’t for­get to make a hole to hang them up with first

3 Stir in the flour, bak­ing pow­der and spices, un­til the mix comes to­gether into a dough, then add the crys­tallised ginger

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