Gingerbread for grandchildren

Short recipe at bottom of page.

Here is some gingerbread I made today (I am seeing my grandsons tomorrow and they love gingerbread men)

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and here is a little story and recipe.

On Boxing Day I had all the family to tea. That is my three children and two husbands and three grandchildren.

I had stollen and the cake I showed you for the grown-ups but thought it would be a good idea to also have some gingerbread men for the grandchildren. My eldest is also particularly fond of anything with ginger in it, as am I.

The morning was a bit hectic and I spent most of it cooking but I asked my granddaughter who was staying with me to help make the gingerbread men. Now as she is ten I thought it would be safe to let her melt the butter and sugar and syrup in a pan. I kept an eye on her while doing other things but when I thought it all should be melted she said that no it wasn’t quite ready. So I let her keep stirring for a bit longer. This was in fact a mistake. When we had finally mixed up everything it was very hot and took until after lunch to cool. When I had cut out and cooked the gingerbread it was very, very hard and I realised that the sugar must have cooked too much. I served the gingerbread anyway but it was so sad to see my youngest grandchild, who is two, putting the gingerbread man in his mouth but being unable to eat it because it was so hard.

I didn’t photograph the gingerbread men at the time but here are a couple of gingerbread snowflakes I made for the grown-ups.  The odd patches you can see are some crystallised ginger that I added.

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I did eat them all up in the end because I hate wasting food but they were very, very hard.

Later I decided that I ought to make some more gingerbread which I did and this time it was much more succesful.

Now I have always found gingerbread dough hard to handle, especially when trying to transfer the gingerbread men to the baking sheet. Some recipes seemed worse than others and I had put together a satisfactory recipe but I used to think longingly of the recipe I had found once in a library book for gingerbread snakes where the dough was wonderfully easy to handle and could even be moulded satisfactorily by children into gingerbread snakes.

After the disaster at Christmas I decided to modify my recipe to avoid any danger of the same thing happening again.

I made just one change which was to replace the dark brown sugar with icing sugar that I didn’t melt but mixed in with the flour. I melted the butter and the molasses (I used mollasses rather than syrup for the colour) as quickly as possible taking it off the heat before it was fully mixed.

This gave a dough that was very reminiscent of that gingerbread snake dough so I was very pleased and it will be my recipe of choice in future.

So in case any of you would like to try it here is my recipe for  gingerbread men complete with photographs.

First take 8oz of flour.

2 teaspoons of ground ginger,

½ teaspoon of cinnamon (optional),

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda,

and put in a large mixing bowl.

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Add 4oz icing sugar sieved.

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Of course you can sieve all the dry ingredients if you like. It does help to mix in the spices.

Then you need to put

4oz butter or margarine,

2 tablespoons of golden syrup or molasses (or one of each)

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in a saucepan on a low heat.

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When the butter is half melted you can take off the heat as it will continue to melt and you won’t be over heating it.

Mix well.

Make a well in the centre of the flour, sugar etc in the mixing bowl and pour in the melted mixture.

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You can see the window in the photo as the bowl was placed near it to get the best light.

Then add one or two tablespoons of milk.

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But it doesn’t need to be whole milk or organic that is just my little indulgence.

To make a firm dough

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Now, if you haven’t already, get out your cutters

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I don’t have my first gingerbread man cutter as it went rusty. The two plastic ones are what I used when my children were small – as I had two girls and a boy of course we had to make gingerbread women as well as gingerbread men. The broken one and the snowflake cutter are ones I bought before Christmas as part of a pack of four for £1 from one of these cheap shops. As you can see the gingerbread cutter didn’t survive cutting the hard dough. The intact small gingerbread man cutter is one I bought the other day at John Lewis for a pound.

Today I am using the small metal one and the snowflake cutter because of course, as you know, I love snowflakes.

Flour the work surface and get out a rolling pin.

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and roll out ¼inch thick.

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I tried to fit as many shapes in as I could.

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This dough because it is so maleable is more forgiving for the second, third, fourth rolling than pastry.

I had taken a bit of dough off the ball before I rolled it out and made some snakes. Remembering that book and just to show you that it works.

A wiggly one

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and in case that didn’t handle well when cooked – a coiled one.

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I am sure you and your children could make better ones. I’ve never been very good at shaping food with my hands.

Place the cut out pieces on a greased baking sheet or two.  I find a fish slice is even better than a palette knife for this.

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Space well apart.

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Now is the time to decorate the gingerbread men.

I know some people do this after they are cooked with icing but my handling of icing is worse than making snakes so I use currants and glace cherries.

So take some currants and glace cherries.

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And use these to give the gingerbread men, eyes, mouths and buttons.

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This before and after picture is to give an idea of how much the gingerbread men spread. As you can see I left more than enough room.

Then cook for 10-20 minutes at 350deg F or 170deg C. I use 160deg in my fan oven.

Leave to cool on a baking sheet.

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And then maybe a granny can have one of the snowflakes with her coffee while she sits down to create this post.

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Here is the basics of the recipe again.

In a large mixing bowl combine

8oz of flour,

2 teaspoons of ground ginger,

½ teaspoon of cinnamon (optional),

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda,

4oz icing sugar.

In a saucepan melt, gently and as little as necessary,

4oz butter or margarine,

2 tablespoons of golden syrup or molasses (or one of each).

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture together with

1 or 2 tablespoons of milk.

Make into a firm dough.

Roll dough out ¼inch thick.

Cut out shapes and place on a greased baking sheet.

Cook at 350 deg F, 170deg C (160deg -Fan oven) for 10-20 minutes.

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The Perfect Flapjack?

Inspired by Patch’s post where she talks of the problem of flapjacks coming out crumbly or too hard and chewy and remembering that my flapjacks of the past had often been on the hard side, I decided to try and make the perfect flapjack.

Now in my youth, when I was in my convent grammar school, I had ended up studying ‘O’ level Cookery because I wasn’t very good at French and we had had to buy a standard cookery book which contained a recipe for flapjacks which was the one I used.

Here you can see that it has suffered rather from being much used over the intervening years.

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And here is the recipe.

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I always felt that part of the problem with the flapjacks being so hard was that they were cooked for an hour at a low temperature, so I decided to look and see if I had any other recipes that were different in any way.

Another cookery book that I have had for a long time was given to me by a school friend (with an eye to when I was married, I think!) and I use it for certain recipes but not flapjacks.

The recipe in here was as follows.

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I could see that this recipe had relatively more fat and was cooked at a higher temperature for less time so I decided to try it.

Remembering my earlier post about Sultana Oat cookies and the things that made them thick and soft as opposed to thin and crisp, I decided to use what I had learned in reverse and so use margarine instead of butter

Soft margaine no Butter yes

and the broken up sort of oats rather than the more whole looking ones.

Broken oats no Whole oats yesSo having decided what to do I lined a swiss roll tin with a piece of old foil.

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and gathered my ingredients.

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I melted 6oz of margarine, 30z of demerera sugar and 3 tablespoons of golden syrup in a large saucepan

and added

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8oz of oats.

I also picked out a handfull of dried apricots to put in one half of the mixture.

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I spread the two mixtures out in the swiss roll tin (chopped up apricot in the part on the left)

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and put them in the oven to cook.

As my oven is a Fan Oven I chose to cook them at 170deg C for 20 minutes.

After this time the edges were just beginning to colour so I decided that would be enough

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and took them out and marked out sixteen pieces as instructed and left them to cool.

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Now I had made a BIG mistake in thinking that a piece of foil would do instead of greasing the tin (and I should have known better. 😦 )

So I had terrible problems trying to get them out of the tin as the foil had stuck to the tin even more than it had stuck to the flapjacks.

And I was left with a bowl of crumbs and these that seemed worth laying out

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The only thing to do was to sit down and try a couple with a mug of coffee.

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Well! I can report that they are not hard or overly chewy but they are definitely crumbly.

Maybe next time I will stick to my Oat cookie recipe. Perhaps the flour and milk helps them hold together. And by choosing my ingredients, I can make a thicker softer more similar to flapjacks cookie if I want.

Busy, busy, busy.

Last week my grandaughter Louisa came to stay. We had a very busy week that included: crafting, playing computer games, visiting play parks, meeting up with uncles, aunt, and cousins, shopping and reading books. The first thing we did was to make some orange jelly and then later we made some lime jelly: all with real fruit juice and gelatine.

The lime jelly didn’t come out very green of course – perhaps I should have bought some colouring – but here are some orange rabbits and green ‘bushes’ all ready to be eaten. The lime jelly was voted as being even better than the orange.

We also did some handicrafts

Louisa went on with her knitting and started to make crochet chains but life was so busy I forgot to take any photographs.

However I did take photographs when we made our first doll as shown us on woolhogs’ blog.
We assembled all we needed, including some new yarn we bought to make more interesting crochet chains.

The piece of card was to help with making the hair.

And we ended up with a little Louisa.

With another doll made later a whole world and story could be created.

Louisa also did some embroidery – all her own design.

Then on Thursday we went to play with her cousins

She played Snakes and Ladders with Oliver but little brother wanted to join in.

At the beginning of the week we had made some cookies

Louisa enjoyed these so much we decided to make some more to take home.

Mummy and Daddy and James the lodger came to collect her on Saturday but before going home we all went out to Portsmouth for another day out……………………….

But that is another story.

Well, I was really busy last week

I haven’t had any time for blogging this week because I have had my granddaughter staying with me.

We have been very busy and apart from everyday things we have:-

Continued with knitting practice.

I am teaching her to knit but it isn’t as easy as it might be because she lives a long way away and so we only have time together every few months. But she is very keen and beginning to grow in confidence.

We also made some origami figures:-

We each made half of the Ninja Star but my granddaughter decided I had to do the final folding.  In the end we made two of different sizes but both times I found working out how to fold in the two pieces to get the final result totally baffling, till I somehow managed to get it right!

We baked some of the sultana oat cookies I posted about:-

We made double quantities of mixture, rolled them and made the balls quite small and placed them well apart on baking trays.

Then we pressed them with a fork

cooked them

and left them to cool on a rack.

All together we ended up with forty five cookies – scrumptious :-).

Then we made a cake for Sunday tea.

Earlier in the week we had also made some rabbit and ‘bush’ shaped jellies out of fruit juice and gelatine using these moulds.

– Much better than the packet sort of jelly!

We went shopping and played in the play park by the new Sainsbury’s.

We visited the cousins – twice!

And played computer games.

But then we had to say goodbye till next time.

One problem after another…………….

Something on crochet next time.

But for now a little culinary aside –

When I was a child my mother had a recipe for Cherry Oat Biscuits and when I had children of my own I took a copy of the recipe.

The first thing I decided was that the cherries (glace cherries) were not the best part of the recipe as when cooked they became hard and tooth threatening so I replace them with soft juicy sultanas which stayed soft and juicy when cooked in this way.

Everything was fine for years and they were one of my children’s favourite cookies: thin and crispy.  The mixture spread so much on the baking trays that however far apart you put the slightly flattened walnut sized balls they always ran into each other.

But years go by, life gets busier, children grow up, and one day I had not made the cookies for years but decided I fancied making some.

But how disappointing – they wouldn’t spread like they used to, several months/years and tries later I decided it must be the soft, improved and excellent for cakes, margarine and decided I would have to make them from butter. Yes, that was the problem!

Then I got a cooker with a fan oven – Great! No need to pre heat – but again they stopped spreading properly. So I added a note to my recipe –

“Only put in oven when it is hot enough”

– This solved the problem.

Then just the other day, when I asked my daughter whether there were any baking goodies I could make to bring her when I next came, she said that she would like some oat cookies.

I keep two sorts of oats: ordinary Quaker oats for cooking and Old Fashioned Scotts Oats for my homemade breakfast muesli.

As I weighed out the Quaker Oats I looked at them and thought – “aren’t they more smashed up looking than oats used to be?” but I went ahead and made the cookies. They spread quite a bit but I had a feeling that they were still a bit thicker than I remembered. Yes and the mixture had not been as ‘fatty’ when I had been rolling them.  They tasted good and crispy but I wasn’t satisfied.

So I set to and made a second batch with the Scotts Old Fashioned Oats – And lo and behold they came out right this time. So I added another note on the recipe card –“Scotts Old Fashioned make thinner biscuits”.

Here are the two cookies: Quaker Oats on the left Scotts on the right – all other ingredients the same.

Should you want to make some – here is the recipe.

It makes about 16 cookies.

In a large bowl mix:

  • 3oz (85g)  plain flour
  • ½ level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2oz (55g) sultanas
  • 3oz (85g) caster sugar
  • 3oz (85g) whole rolled oats

In a small saucepan melt:

  • 4oz (110g) butter
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon milk.

Add the melted ingredients to the bowl, mix well and leave to cool.

When cool, roll into walnut sized balls and place well apart on a baking tray.

[There is no need to grease the baking tray and when I say well apart, I really mean it. – I tend to put eight on my baking trays but they do end up touching when they are cooked. Four would probably not touch at all!]

Flatten the balls with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 300 deg F=150 deg C or 140 deg for a Fan Oven.

They take about 15-20 mins in a conventional oven, less in a fan oven but check sooner.

They are ready when the middles are brown rather than cream.

Leave on the baking tray for a couple of minutes before removing with a fish slice or similar; they are fairly fragile.  Leave to cool on a rack.