Gingerbread Men

gingerbread men

I got this recipe out of a cartoon magazine when I was about 5 years old.  My mum and I carefully wrote it out and kept the recipe safe all these years.  The magazine has long since disappeared and I can’t remember which one it was, so unfortunately I can’t tag it in my blog.  Little did I think I’d still be using the same recipe and have my own baking blog.  But to all the children’s magazine editors and writers a big THANK YOU and keep the recipes coming, we still love them as we grow up!  I still like them the same as I did as a child – decorated with smarties and this recipe makes loads….

You will need:

  • 350g Plain flour
  • 100g Butter
  • 175g Brown sugar
  • ½ tsp Ground ginger
  • 1tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp Golden syrup
  • Your favourite cookie cutter

Optional: Icing, smarties, raisins, sprinkles

Method:

  • Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix well until you have a ball of dough, I use the dough hook on my stand mixer. However when I was younger I loved to get my hands in and mix it!
  • Let the dough rest while you line 2 baking sheets and pre heat the oven to 160degrees
  • Take half the dough (it is just easier to manage in half) and roll out to about 5mm thick.  Using your favourite cookie cutter cut out your gingerbread shapes and arrange on one of the baking sheets – allowing for room to spread. If you are using a variety of shaped cookie cutters try to keep the same or similar sized shapes on one tray, this will ensure an even cooking time for all.
  • Cook for about 7-10mins. I like soft ginger bread men so I tend to cook for 7mins.  If you like firmer gingerbread men then go for 10mins or more depending on your oven.
  • Whilst the first tray is cooking re-roll the dough and repeat until all the dough is used up.
  • I find a pallet knife perfect for removing the warm ginger bread shapes from the grease proof paper on to the cooling rack. Allow to cool completely on a rack.
  • Decorate with icing, you can use a variety of colours, patterns and extras.  My favourite is smarties for the eyes and buttons.
  • I tend not to cook the Gingerbread men with the raisins already on them for eyes and buttons as they often get over cooked and can taste burnt.

Here are a few suggestions:

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Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These are so easy to make and really scrummy. There is a spell of chilling the cookie dough, so although the ‘hands on’ making is relatively quick, there is an hour of down time in the middle.  Great if there are a few other jobs that need doing too.

This recipe makes about 16 cookies, however that does all depend on how large you like them!

You will need:

  • 150g Plain flour
  • 60g Coco powder
  • ½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 60g Dark brown sugar
  • 60g Caster sugar
  • 120g Butter
  • ½ tsp Vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 60g Dark chocolate (chopped or chocolate chips)
  • 60g White chocolate (chopped or chocolate chips)

Method:

  • Prepare two baking sheets by lining with greased – grease proof paper.
  • Place all the ingredients except the egg and chocolate into a bowl and mix to bread crumb stage.  I find the dough hook attachment on my mixer is fantastic for this, but an electric hand mixer or your hands work just as well.
  • Add the egg and the chopped chocolate and blend well until a ball of cookie dough has formed and the chocolate chips are well distributed.
  • Roll the dough into a fat sausage shape about 5cm diameter, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
  • Unroll the cookie dough from the cling film and cut into 1cm slices. Reform any that have misshapen during the cutting when the knife get caught on a chunk of chocolate.
  • Arrange on the baking sheets, giving each cookie space to spread slightly and cook for 10-15mins. (always check after 10mins).
  • Allow to cool on the tray for 5mins then remove to a cooling rack.
  • Perfect with a glass of milk, on their own or with ice cream as a quick pudding.

Apple Meringue Pie

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With such a glut of apples at the moment, it seems a race against time to eat the apples before they go off! We are having apple everything at the moment. Some things have been more successful than others. My most successful bakes has been the Apple Meringue Pie. Essentially the same as Lemon Meringue Pie – with the obvious filling change.  I have used Cox apples, only because that is the apple tree I have! I didn’t feel the need to add sugar to the stewed apple because I felt the apples were sweet enough and with the meringue top it balances the sharpness of the apple.

You will get left over egg yolk, with these you can either make your own custard, or extra yolk in a scrambled egg, I even experimented with extra yolk in little cup cakes, they tasted great but were very yellow!

You will need:

For the pastry:

  • 140g Self raising flour
  • 70g Butter
  • Water
  • Filling:
  • 800g Apples

Meringue:

  • 4 x Egg whites
  • 100g Caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp Cream of tartar
  • ¼ tsp Salt

Method:

  • Grease a 23cm loose flan tin, if you don’t have a loose bottom one then a glass/china dish will work really well too.
  • Peel and core the apples, chop them up into slices about 1cm thick, place then into a pan and gently simmer and reduce to a pulp.  My Cox apples were very juicy, I left the pan lid tilted slightly to allow the steam to escape. You want a firm set but not too dry. Keep an eye on the apples as you don’t want to burn them. Once they are reduced turn the heat off and leave to cool down.
  • Mix the flour and butter until it resembles bread crumbs, add the water a table spoon at a time until you achieve a non-sticky ball of dough. (if you have added a little to much water just add another sprinkle of flour).
  • Allow the pastry to rest for 10mins.
  • Heat the oven to 180degrees.
  • Roll the pastry out on a floured surface, slightly larger then you need. Line the flan tin with the pastry. Leave the pastry over hanging the side a little. The pastry does have a tendency to shrink. Trim the excess and with a ball of the excess press the pastry into the sides of the tin.
  • Prick the bottom all over with a fork, Line with grease proof paper and beans and blind bake for 10mins.
  • Meanwhile prepare the meringue.
  • Whisk the egg white to soft peak.
  • Add the salt, cream of tartar and then the sugar one spoonful at a time until the egg white is thick and glossy.
  • Once the pastry case has finished blind baking remove the paper and beans, trim off any excess pastry and gently spoon the stewed apple into the case. Level it.
  • Spoon the meringue over, I like to make a spiky pattern on the top.
  • Bake for 20-30mins or until the meringue is golden.
  • Serve straight away, or warm or even cold the next day!

Top tip – if you have left over pastry and a mini morsel tin, you can make mini meringue pies. One of our favourites is mini Nutella Meringue Pies – Perfect for lunch boxes!!

Caramel Shortbread Biscuits

 

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I have made Millionaire Shortbread in a tray bake, but there is something nice about a biscuit.

Shortbread is very crumbly and it took a while to perfect the recipe and technique to get shortbread biscuits that still had the shortbread texture and held together well. It is essential to chill the shortbread dough for ease of shaping, when the dough is chilled prior to cooking the biscuits hold their shape better whilst cooking.

This recipe will make up to 20 halves or 10 double biscuits.

You will need:

For the Shortbread:

  • 125g Butter
  • 80g Caster Sugar
  • 150g Plain Flour
  • 30g Corn flour
  • 100g Dark Chocolate

For the Caramel:

  • ½ Can of Condensed Milk (about 200g)
  • 1 tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 30g Butter

Method

  • Put butter, caster sugar, flour and corn flour into a bowl and mix until a ball of dough has been formed.
  • Roll into a sausage shape about 6cm in diameter, take time to get this as even as possible, cover in cling film and chill for about an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 170degrees and grease and line two baking trays.
  • Once chilled remove from the plastic and carefully cut slices of about 4mm. If any ‘coin shaped’ slices have crumbled gently pat them back into shape. You are aiming to cut 20 slices.
  • Arrange the biscuit dough slices on the trays and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Check after 10 minutes and turn if necessary to achieve an even bake.
  • Once cooked allow to cool completely.
  • Melt the chocolate in a heat proof dish over a saucepan of hot water.
  • While the chocolate is melting arrange the biscuits into pairs of equal shape and size.
  • Once the chocolate is melted dip the biscuits, one at a time, into the chocolate to cover half of each in chocolate.
  • While the chocolate is setting make the caramel, melt the condensed milk, golden syrup and butter together in a pan, bring to the boil while stirring constantly. Then simmer for about 5 minutes or until the caramel has thickened and is slightly darker in colour. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  • When the chocolate has set spread the caramel on the underside of one of the biscuits and sandwich together with its pair. Repeat with all the biscuits.
  • They are now ready to eat!!

Caramel Fudge Cake

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I had the idea of making a caramel flavoured cake, topped with a caramel fudge icing and piled high with fudge pieces. I set about finding a caramel cake recipe and finally found once in an ancient book belonging to my late great great Aunt. Using this as a guide I created my Caramel Fudge Cake.

I have used my Bundt tin for this cake, as this allows me to pile the fudge pieces in the middle and drizzle the caramel fudge icing into the ready made ‘well’ in the middle.

Because the Bundt tin increases the surface area of the cake mixture that is in contact with the sides of the tin, the cake will cook quicker and I cook at a lower temperature then usual to help prevent the cake from drying out.

I have used whisked egg white for this cake and it gives an incredibly light finish to the cake and well worth the extra effort and washing-up!

You will need:

Cake:

  • 60g Granulated Sugar
  • 100ml Hot Milk
  • 230g Butter
  • 230g Caster Sugar
  • 4 Eggs Separated
  • 300g Self Raising Flour

Caramel Fudge Icing:

  • 80g Butter
  • 80g Brown Sugar
  • 80g Double Cream

Fudge:

  • One portion of my chocolate fudge, the recipe can be found in the Sweets and Chocolate section. (The fudge does need to be made ahead of time or you can use bought fudge)

Method:

Cake:

  • Prepare the bundt tin by generously greasing with butter. Preheat the oven to 150degrees.
  • Heat the 60g of granulated sugar until dissolved and is the colour of light coffee, add the hot milk to the dissolved caramel, stir to blend and put one side to cool.
  • Cream the butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Meanwhile whisk the egg white until thick and fluffy.
  • Add the egg yolk to the butter and sugar, and blend well.
  • Mix in the cooled caramel to the egg, butter and sugar.
  • Sift the flour and fold in gently.
  • Now gradually add the whisked egg white, a spoonful at a time, using very gentle folding figure of eight motion.  You need to preserve as much of the air you have created as possible.
  • Once all the egg white has been incorporated and there are no lumps of egg white pour into your prepared tin. Cook for about 30mins.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes before turning out to cool completely.

Caramel Fudge Icing:

  • While the cake is cooling make the icing. Put all the icing ingredients in to a pan on a low heat to until the butter and sugar have melted into the cream. Bring to the boil for 3mins then remove from the heat once it has thickened and allow to cool.

Assembly:

  • Once the cake and the icing have cooled, transfer the cake to the plate or stand you will be serving on.
  • Gently pour the icing over the cake encouraging it to drip down the sides and into the middle.
  • I cut my fudge into small 1cm cubes for sprinkling over the cake and left larger chunks for filling the middle.

Summer Berry Eclairs

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Éclairs and profiteroles have to be one of my favourite pastries and desserts, I usually do a chocolate sauce with a cream filling.  But with all the fantastic summer fruit around at this time of year I made a change from the usual!  I used raspberries, however strawberries will work just as well.

This will make about 12 éclairs depending on how large you like them.

You will need:

For the profiteroles:

  • 60g butter
  • 125ml water
  • 75g plain flour
  • 2 eggs

Filling:

  • 200ml double cream
  • 50g melted white chocolate (optional)
  • 4 raspberries for each éclair

Icing:

  • 2 large raspberries
  • 5 tbsp icing sugar

Method:

Profiteroles:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees, grease and line 2 baking sheets.
  • Melt the butter slowly with the water.  Once melted bring to the boil.
  • As soon as the water and butter boil turn the heat off and add the flour.  Mix the flour vigorously with a wooden spoon until you have a ball of dough that comes away from the sides of the pan leaving the pan ‘clean’.
  • The mixture should have cooled enough to add the eggs. If the pan and the dough are still too warm then the eggs will cook. Add the eggs one at a time mix thoroughly after each addition.  You should end up with a thick sticky mixture that holds its shape.
  • Transfer to a piping bag that has a large star nozzle.  I piped my éclairs into finger shapes.
  • Place in the hot oven for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 180 degrees for a further 10 minutes.
  • During the cooking time DO NOT open the oven!!
  • They should be puffed up and golden brown.
  • Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

Cream:

  • Whisk the double cream until just thick, with the whisk still on slowly add the melted white chocolate. Transfer to the fridge.

Icing:

  • Put the 2 large raspberries in a glass bowl and mash them with a fork.  Now depending on how juicy your raspberries are will depend on how much of the icing sugar you will need to use.
  • You need an icing that is quite thick so it stays on top of your éclairs and not drip off.
  • The raspberry not only colours the icing but also flavours it too.  You will NOT need to add any water to the icing.
  • Once the éclair shells are completely cold, cut them in half length ways.
  • Ice the top halves and leave to set.
  • Pipe the cream onto the bottom halves, evenly space the 4 raspberries on to the cream, then carefully place the iced ‘lids’ on and they are ready for serving.

These ideally need to be eaten the same day – not really a problem in my house!

Chocolate Soufflé

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These are amazingly simple to make and fairly quick too.  Light and delicious, a perfect end to a meal.

They do need to be eaten straight away or they start to sink a little. Don’t worry if they do, this can be disguised with cream and fruit, either way they will taste amazing!

This recipe will make 4 servings

You will need:

  • knob of softened butter for greasing
  • 1tbs cocoa powder to dust
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1tbs butter
  • 4 egg yolk plus 15g of caster sugar
  • 4 egg whites plus 50g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar

Method

  • Heat oven to 180 degrees. Use the knob of the butter to grease 4 mini ramekins (mine are 9cm in diameter). Then dust the ramekins with the cocoa, tapping out the excess.
  • In a large bowl, over a bain-marie, melt the chocolate, once melted remove from the heat and stir in 1tbs of butter until smooth.
  • Mix the 15g of caster sugar with the egg yolks, and then add this gradually to the chocolate until well blended and creamy. Set aside.
  • In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are shiny and fluffy add the 50g of caster sugar and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold the egg-white mixture into the chocolate one spoonful at a time. Taking care not to knock all the air out of the egg white.
  • Spoon into the ramekins.
  • Bake until puffed and set, 20- 25 minutes they should be well risen.
  • Do not open the oven door during the cooking or the soufflé will sink!!
  • Serve immediately with cream or ice cream and a strawberry.

Valentine Cherry Meringues

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I did a lot of research into finding the perfect meringue recipe. As a general rule 50g of sugar per egg white is used. The addition of corn flour and vinegar ‘strengthens’ the egg white, making it more stable giving a more chewy fluffier marshmallow centre and the cooking time can be shortened.  Adding brown sugar gives an even chewier centre (however no more than half the total amount of sugar used should be brown).  Cream of tartar makes a sturdier meringue that is less prone to weeping and more tolerant to a higher cooking temperature.  This is why cream of tartar is often added to meringue when making puddings like lemon meringue pie.

So what is the perfect meringue?  Well, that all depends on how you like your meringue.  I like a chewy meringue so I have put together the following recipe. I hope you like it to!!

This recipe will make about 8 meringue rounds which will serve 4.  I piped mine into heart shapes, but you can do any shape.

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