Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Baking with Baby 8 - Gingerbread... Bears?

'Tis the season to be... making your Christmas cake apparently! Hmm! Well, I still can't decide whether to bother yet. I used to love a good piece of Christmas cake, but I really can't see the point of making one just for me - I'd be eating it 'til next Christmas, most likely, as The Hub and Baby quite simply won't partake of it with me.

However that doesn't mean I'm eschewing the old Christmas spirit, oh no! My thoughts have been preoccupied with a slightly less exacting task - that of making gingerbread biscuits.

Gingerbread men seem to be everywhere at the moment, which is quite possibly why I just couldn't get them out of my head. It was an itch that needed to be scratched. Also, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do some more baking with Baby - she could put all her play dough rolling and cutting skills into real action at last.

'Make sure you don't over cook them,' my sister warned when she discovered what was afoot! Funny she should mention that!

Funny also how, although they seem to epitomise Christmas décor  I've never ever actually seen a single real gingerbread man on anyone's Christmas tree. I couldn't help wondering why this is. 'Is it 'cos nobody has the self control to leave them suspended there for a few weeks?' I pondered, 'or would they go stale, or maybe one doesn't eat them, so nobody wants to waste them?' The only answer, it seemed to me, was to try them out, for myself.

The first task was that of selecting a recipe. Google soon threw up choices aplenty, but I ended up settling for one from Netmums that came up straight away - simply because it was well... simple!! It also looked like the kind of recipe that would lend itself to a little bit of substitution in the dairy and gluten free department, and so it did!

I used Pure sunflower margarine and Dove's Farm gluten free plain flour and without any trouble the whole thing came together. I don't tend to use xanthum gum, and so I was worried it would all fall apart. However, the egg seemed to do the trick of holding it all together, and look, we made loads!

Yes, this lot were slightly over done!
Another adaptation was that we didn't use as much ginger as in the original recipe - Baby isn't that keen on spicy foods, so I only used one teaspoon, rather than two.

Having made this recipe a few times now, I would say that you might need to knead in a little extra flour for rolling out, if it gets a bit sticky. This has happened a few times, but  I thought this was maybe because I tend to buy large eggs.

The other thing is, (like my sister said) you definitely need to watch the oven temperature, and time, carefully - especially, if, like us, you have a fan oven. I tend to set the timer for about 8 minutes and watch it like a hawk (albeit a distracted hawk, with Baby tearing around the place) for the last few minutes.

I have to say, we haven't ended up with many gingerbread men at the end of it all - partly because Baby prefers bears (which was perfect for her birthday) and circles and all sorts of other shapes and partly because we keep eating them all! Well, they do go down rather well with a cup of tea!

Perfect with a cuppa!
By the way, if you do intend to use them as Christmas decorations, DO over cook them and make sure you make the hole for hanging your gingerbread before it cools and hardens - in other words, as soon as it comes out of the oven. I used a chopstick to make the hole in ours. Oh, and whether you eat them, or use them as decorations for your tree, don't forget to decorate them first - just a little bit of glacé icing and a few silver balls can work wonders... although Baby prefers to 'bling' hers:

Now, having found this rather cute little tin in Tiger (if you've never been in one, find your nearest shop online - they're a fabulous cheapy shop filled with lots of fun stuff - you can also get the ribbon from there, although I bought ours in Waitrose) I've been thinking I could always pack some in a tin and give them to someone as a present - just so long as I can keep from eating them!  :)

One last thing: 
If you want to have a go at  decorating gingerbread men, without actually having to make them, you can get kits from Tesco that are dairy free, egg free and soya free, but if (like me) you need to avoid wheat, or gluten, they're no good at all.

Organix also make dairy free gingerbread men biscuits for little ones (again not gluten free).  They are egg free and soya free, but they're not suitable for little ones under the age of one. These can be bought as multipacks from the baby aisle in most supermarkets. 

Baby found them too spicy. The Hub, who also tried them, said they seemed mild to begin with, but then the ginger kicked in. However, my four year old niece really loves them, so it's each to their own!

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