After 41 years I have finally made gingerbread biscuits that pass muster. Allow me to impart my wisdom, dear friends….
2 cups / 8oz / 225g plain flour; 2 heaped teaspoons dried ginger; 1 level teaspoon dried cinnamon; 1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice; 1 level teaspoon dried nutmeg; 1 quarter teaspoon bicarbonate of soda / baking soda; 1 stick / half a cup / 4oz / 100g of salted butter; 1/2 cup/ 3oz / 75g brown sugar – not packed down; 1/4 cup / 3oz / 75g syrup – golden is best but maple is good too; 1 large egg
Just a note to say that I will not be adding my usual elaborate narrative to this recipe. It’s extremely time sensitive and needs a business-like approach due to the ingredients’ extreme reaction to any changes in temperature.
Read the recipe through at least once before you start and make sure your ingredients are assembled, weighed, prepped and ready to go so you don’t waste any time faffing about. This is not high art – it’s functional baking for people who can’t be arsed making Christmas cakes but who do want to look like they’re contributing…but not more than 30 minutes (realistically) of their time.
Soften butter and put in a mixing bowl with the brown sugar.
Mix remaining dry ingredients together in a separate bowl
Mix butter and sugar and add egg gradually when they are a creamy mixture. Add syrup when the egg is combined.
Continue mixing and add the dry mix one tablespoon at a time. As soon as it is all combined, stop.
Remove the dough from the bowl with as little handling as possible. Put in freezer for 45 minutes or fridge for 2 hours.
Prepare baking paper to fit 2 baking trays / sheets – if you have two, obviously. Flour thoroughly and leave on table or counter.
Have a cup of tea.
Flour everything else the dough will touch – hands, rolling pin etc.
Remove dough from cold and cut in half. Put one half in the fridge. Roll the other half on the baking paper to around 1/8″ / 0.5cm depth.
Put the baking paper and the rolled dough on baking tray and chill in fridge while you repeat with the other half of the dough.
Switch on the oven – 350° / 160° / gas mark 4.
After 20 minutes of chilling, remove one tray from fridge and cut the dough into biscuits. And be quick – the dough is very buttery and doesn’t retain solidity for long.
Again work the dough one section – or tray – at a time so it stays chilled as much as possible. When the biscuits are cut and fill one tray, put them in the fridge and start work with the other dough.
Put the tray that is in the fridge on the side and replace with the other. Put the first tray in the top of the middle of the oven. I use the middle shelf if my oven can actually be bothered getting to the correct heat. Otherwise it’s the second one down.
Check the biscuits after 10 minutes. After that, every 1 or 2. I’m not kidding. They go from ‘actually getting paler’ to ‘these will only be good at the bottom of a very disappointing cheesecake’ in seconds. You want golden brown – not tanned gold.
You also need to be able to touch the side of a biscuit and have it skate gracefully across the baking paper without sticking. Then you can lift one – with a suitable kitchen tool – and check if the bottom is cooked. A little give is fine but nobody wants their biscuits cooked medium rare.
You should be able to lift them onto a cooling tray with a fish slice or similar without them losing shape after just a couple of minutes.
Or you can be circumspect and slide the entire sheet of baking paper – biscuits and all – onto the cooling tray. I often do this because my kitchen isn’t huge and I’m conscious of saving space and time. However it takes practice to be able to judge the exact window of opportunity. Be careful.
You can now repeat the cooking process with the other tray of biscuits. Or cover them and leave in the fridge to bake the next day. They’ll last 2 to 3 days in the fridge – or forever in a freezer – but it’s Christmas and you probably don’t have a lot of space to spare.
How to serve:
Resist the urge to eat as they are cooling. It’s actually pretty hard. Enjoy them over the holidays with your morning coffee – trust me on this.
If left alone, they will be devoured really, really, really quickly. I don’t know why but they’re very more-ish. It’s all the butter, I suppose. They’re just so comforting.
And that’s my recipe for Christmas. Unless it’s cocktails, I tend to avoid the kitchen. I consider it the realm of men who show off and takeaway menus. Such a depressing place…