Gingerbread Men

On one of my recent shopping escapades I came across a very nice book on Christmas recipes. It had every recipe that one could possibly want to try during the festive season. While I couldn't decide which one I should try out first, this particular recipe caught my eye. I had only heard about gingerbread men. I used to be a huge fan of Enid Blyton's novels during my childhood and that lady can definitely make one salivate with her description of food. Cupcakes, muffins, scones and such to be eaten along with high tea. Pretty much the stuff that made up for a majority of her stories. I loved reading her books and they always made me hungry so I'd always run to my mum and ask her to whip me something quickly to satiate the hunger pangs. Well, since my mum never baked she made Indian equivalents of the goodies. Pancakes a.k.a dosa would appear on a plate in front of me and I would lavishly pour honey or ghee and sugar over it and wallop it down. 

When i was little I always thought that gingerbread tasted like ginger flavoured bread and that idea didn't appeal to me much. I mean who likes fresh and spicy grated ginger on a slice of bread? Not me! It was only much later that I got to know about the existence of dried ginger in its powdered form used to flavour not only hot beverages like tea but also cakes and other baked goodies. We Indians also use powdered ginger as a medicine. When taken with honey it can cure a bad throat. However I was very apprehensive to try out so much ginger powder in a cake. 

My family is not particularly fond of foods that reek of spice and imagine eating a cake that tastes heavily of ginger? Anyway, I decided that I was going to make it after one of my readers requested for a fool proof recipe. Well, unless I gave it a shot I would not be able to help her. Moreover this was my first real attempt at making biscuits/cookies. I am pretty hesitant when it comes to embarking on new journey in the culinary world. I love my comfort zone too much. Maybe that explains why I don't have a bread recipe on my blog yet. And no cookie recipe either. But there's always a first time.

Did I also mention that I am nervous about decoration too? I feel I totally suck at decorating cakes and such except for maybe slather some ganache sloppily on a cake. I can't hold a piping bag in my hand without muttering to myself about why I jumped into this in the first place. But then yesterday as I piped this simple icing onto the men I realised what a difficult yet fulfilling job it was. Baking is a lot more easier than decorating. Everyone knows that. My respect for professional cake decorators has just grown by leaps and bounds. 

I am so glad that I took the plunge into cookie baking at home. Never will I buy the store bought ones. Making biscuits/cookies at home is so easy and quick that I finished the whole job within 20 mins (to mix, knead, roll, punch out shapes, bake) and a couple of hours for the icing to cool. These men may not be perfect (no men are!) and one could use any cookie cutter to cut out shapes. If you don't have any Christmassy cookie cutters just use the lids of small round steel boxes to get your perfectly round shapes. By the way, the ginger is not over powering at all. Delicately spicy in a way and aromatic too. I loved this experience, I hope you do too!

Gingerbread Men
Adapted from The Perfect Christmas
Prep time: 10 mins | Bake time 10-12 mins | Yield 30-35 cookies

To decorate:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350F. Depending on the size of your cookie cutters you may need 2-3 baking sheets. Grease them or line with baking parchment.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, pinch of salt and ginger a couple of times into bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles sand. Stir in the brown sugar.
3. In a bowl beat the egg lightly and add the golden syrup to it and mix. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and gently knead into a ball. *see note#2
4. On a lightly floured and clean working surface roll out the dough into 1/4 inch thickness and punch out ginger bread man shapes. Use a spatula to transfer the shapes onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for about 10-12 minutes or till the cookies turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and gently transfer onto a cooling rack until completely cooled.
5. Prepare the icing by mixing the icing sugar with the lemon juice until thick & paste like. The icing should not be too runny as it will spread out on the cookie. Neither should it be too thick or dry as it will fall off the cookie without setting. Dust a little extra icing sugar or sprinkle extra drops of lemon juice until the right consistency is achieved. Transfer into a piping bag with a desired nozzle.
6. Once the cookies have been completely cooled decorate as desired and transfer back on the rack for a few hours until the icing has set & hardened. Store in an airtight container.

1. I substituted golden syrup with corn syrup which worked fine in my opinion. While I searched for substitutes on the net I found suggestions to substitute golden syrup with melted jaggery syrup. I have not tried this but I guess you could try melting regular jaggery (not palm jaggery which is black and available in disc form) on slow fire and add a few drops of water to achieve a thick syrup like consistency.
2. While kneading the dough you may feel that the mixture is extremely dry and crumbly and that the moisture is very less however do not add any extra liquid like water or butter or milk as you will end up with a mess. The dough requires kneading for at least 5-7 minutes during which you will get a nice smooth round ball of dough with a clay like texture

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