Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas...

My Gingerbread Recipe:

12oz / 350g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 and a half teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
125g / 4 and a half oz butter (at room temperature)
175g / 6 0z dark soft brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons treacle
2 tablespoons runny honey
Icing and sweets to decorate
Gingerbread man cutter (or a knife and sense of imagination)

1) Put on some Christmas carols
2) Pour yourself a glass of wine
3) Don a pretty apron
4) Sift the dry ingredients (flour, bicarb, ginger, cinnamon, sugar) into a big bowl
5) Cut the butter into squares and add it to the flour and sugar mix, rubbing it in with your hands until the mix looks like breadcrumbs
6) Add the egg, syrup and honey to the mix and beat together with a wooden spoon
7) Tip the dough out onto a clean surface and knead it lightly. If it is still quite sticky, add flour to your hands and rub it in until the dough is smooth
8) Wrap the dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes
9) Pour yourself another glass of wine
10) Preheat the oven to 180c / 350F / Gas mark 4. If you are living in a student house where the oven doesn't close properly, fetch a chair from the sitting room to prop closed the oven door to stop the heat escaping
11) Take the dough out of the fridge, dust flour over a clean surface and roll out the dough until it is the thickness of a pound coin. If, like me, you are cooking in a student kitchen or are sadly not the domestic goddess you want to be therefore don't own a rolling pin, a milk bottle, glass tumbler or roll of tin foil (sellotaped to stop it unraveling) will do the trick
12) Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Using a gingerbread man cutter or your imagination and a sharp knife, cut out your gingerbread men and transfer them to the greaseproof papered baking trays
13) Put your men (and women...?) in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until they are golden brown
14) When the timer pings / your phone bleeps / your wonderful sense of timing tells you the time is up, take the gingerbread men out of the oven and place them on a wire cooling tray, or a plate / any kind of tray if you don't have one
15) The gingerbread men will be fairly soft (I don't really like the really traditional gingerbread men that are as crunchy as a piece of bark) so be careful that they don't incur any injuries. If a gingerbread man does lose a leg / arm in the journey between oven and cooling tray, it is of course your duty to eat it
16) Whilst the gingerbread men are cooling, use the time to put on some new Christmas songs and dance around the kitchen
17) When the gingerbead are cool, it is time to dress them. I used writing icing, marshmallows and a batch of regular icing to give the gingerbread man below a very fashionable pom pom jumper. Equally, feel free to use a piping bag for more artistic designs or to decorate with smarties and dolly mixtures
18) Admire your handiwork
19) Gather your friends and let the annihilation of a whole gingerbread population commence.

My Christmas Chocolate Cake

I don't know many people who actually like Christmas cake, so I made my housemates a gooey and calorific chocolate cake instead. It is a little known medical fact that calories don't actually count at Christmas. Or if they do all that baking, peeling and chopping of veg and wrapping of presents burns them off, easily.

6oz / 170g self raising flour
6oz / 170g butter
3oz / 135g caster sugar
3oz / 135g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 bar of dark chocolate
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 bar white chocolate

1) See above and instructions 1 -3
2) Preheat the oven to 180c / 350F / Gas mark 4.
3) Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl
4) Add the butter and eggs and beat it all together with a wooden spoon. If you have a hand-held electric mixer you could technically use that but I like to think that the energy required to beat the mix by hand removes any guilt when it comes to eating the finished cake
5) Melt the bar of dark chocolate. If you have a microwave (I don't) break the bar into pieces and put in a microwavable bowl for 15 second bursts, stirring in between, until the chocolate is smooth and melted. To melt using a hob, you can boil some water in a pan and put the broken pieces of chocolate into a bowl resting in the water. I tend to just put the chocolate directly into the pan and stir it loads to make sure it doesn't burn or stick to the pan
6) Pour the melted chocolate into the cake mix and fold it all together with a wooden spoon
7) If there is some chocolate left in the bottom of the bowl / pan, get whatever fruit you have in the kitchen to wipe the bowl clean in an impromptu chocolate fondue
8) Sift in the cocoa powder
9) Keeping the bar of white chocolate in its wrapper, bash it into little pieces. This is the fun bit and here are some good bashing tips: whack the bar with a rolling pin / shoe / saucepan, hit it against the corner of a work surface, if you live on several stories, go to the top of the house, throw the bar out the window and go into the street / garden to retrieve it, throw it at someone you don't like (I do not endorse violence, especially not whilst cooking)
10) Mix the broken white chocolate pieces into the cake mix
11) Grease a round cake tin and pour the mixture into the tin
12) Put in the oven for 35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean or almost clean (this cake is supposed to be a bit gooey)
13) Put the cake on a cooling rack. Once the cake is cool, decorate as you like, then cut yourself a big slice and enjoy.


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