I love baking at this time of the year. With the scent of cakes and bakes heady with cinnamon and ginger wafting from the kitchen, you can really start to feel Christmas in the air. And what better way to kick off the festive season than with a batch of homemade gingerbread cookies?
Despite being a frequent consumer of gingerbread cookies in my lifetime, I must confess that I have never actually made them at home. But as my 2-year old has started to show an increasing interest in baking, most likely because he has spent a good part of his lifetime so far amusing himself in the kitchen alongside me, I thought it was time to let him play with some dough and cookie cutters, and making gingerbread men seemed like a fitting activity at this time of the year.
The recipe below comes from the current December/January 2015 issue of Donna Hay Magazine. It’s quick and easy, tastes delicious, and is versatile in that you can use it to make traditional gingerbread men or other Christmas-shaped cookies, or this very moreish chocolate chip version.
If you plan to make plain gingerbread cookies, you will need to make sure that the dough is cold at all times, not least so it is easier to handle when cutting out the shapes, but also so it doesn’t expand in the oven, ensuring that the end result will be more or less the same size as when it went in the oven. This is important if you plan to decorate the cookies later.
Otherwise, for this chocolate chip version, simply work with the dough at room temperature, and space the cookies about 5 cm apart on the baking sheet to allow them to expand during baking.
As always, when it comes to cooking with ready-ground spices, make sure your ground cinnamon and mixed spice are fresh so you can get a full kick out of the spices in these cookies.
I first tried this recipe because because I wanted to have some fun with my little one in the kitchen; he loves cutting shapes from Playdoh and making cookies seemed like the next logical step. But I was also secretly hoping that these gingerbread cookies would be too spicy for him, that he would enjoy cutting out shapes from the dough (his favourite was a pig – not very Christmassy, I know!), but that the spicy ground ginger would put him off eating too many of these sugary delights. Fat chance. He devoured these cookies the moment they were cool enough to touch and ate far more than any reasonable mother would allow. But I felt it was important for him to show an interest in whole cookie-making process, and to deny him full enjoyment of the end-result would not have been fair. Besides, the cookies did actually taste pretty good, so I made a second batch the following day in order to try out the chocolate chip variation and now I’m hooked!
I can’t think of a more perfect cookie to have alongside a big mug of tea right now.
For crunchier cookies, bake the cookies for a few extra minutes. You may have to experiment a little, depending on how big your cookies are.
The cookie dough will keep well in the fridge for at least a few days, so you can bake these cookies at the last minute and serve them warm, if you like.
The cookie dough will also keep well in the freezer, covered well in cling film, for up to 2 months.
Mixed spice is commonly a mixture of ready-ground cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. I frequently use this brand of mixed spice.
And if you are not familiar with golden syrup, I use a brand called Lyle’s Golden Syrup which, I think, is hard to substitute with a different ingredient.
Share your photos!
If you have made this dish, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird