This charming gingerbread Christmas tree makes a lovely table centrepiece, mantel decoration or topper for your Christmas cake. For extra Yuletide cheer why not make accompanying gingerbread parcel cupcakes to stand around the tree.
© 2022 Monger, Sandra / Search Press · Reproduced with permission.
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You Will Need
Before we start baking, making and decorating, let’s have a look at some of the equipment, tools and materials we will be using. The projects in the book sometimes refer back to this section so it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the equipment before you get started. This will make the projects easier and help you obtain the best results you can.
Making the dough
Baking gingerbread is at the heart of this book. To make a batch of gingerbread, you will need the following equipment and materials – these can be thought of as your ‘basic toolkit’, which can be applied to each of the projects in this book:
• Kitchen scales, measuring spoons and jug for weighing and measuring ingredients
• Sieve for sifting flour into a mixing bowl
• Spatula for stirring and mixing ingredients and removing mixtures from saucepans and bowls
• Saucepan for melting and combining ingredients
• Tablespoon for measuring, mixing and stirring
• Mixing bowl for mixing gingerbread ingredients
• Ramekin used to contain and mix small amounts of wet or dry ingredients before they are added to a mixture
• Baking parchment or kitchen foil for wrapping and storing raw gingerbread dough.
To make a template you will need:
• Baking parchment This can also be used as tracing paper.
• Masking tape to secure tracing paper or baking parchment.
• Pair of scissors If you are using paper or light card to make your templates, they can be cut out using regular scissors. You will get best results if the scissors are good quality, medium-sized and sharp.
• Craft knife, metal ruler and cutting mat These can be used to cut straight lines and are suited to cutting thicker cards. Care is needed as the knife is sharp and cutting curves requires practice as it is done freehand. A cutting mat will protect your work surface or table top.
• HB pencil, soft pencil (B or 2B), ruler, pencil sharpener and eraser These are essential if you are tracing the templates in this book or if you are drawing and making your own templates.
• Pair of compasses
• Vegetable shortening (not shown) This is applied to the underside of the template to prevent it from sticking to rolled-out gingerbread dough.
To bake your gingerbread, you will need a flat baking sheet. If you have two of these sheets, it will help speed things up. A double-layer baking sheet is best as it is less likely to warp or buckle in the heat of the oven.
You will also need:
• Wire cooling racks These are used for cooling baked gingerbread and for storing and transferring when a project is in progress.
• Palette knife This is useful for transferring baked gingerbread items onto cooling racks.
These items are also part of your ‘basic toolkit’.
This classic all-purpose gingerbread recipe is ideal for cookies, treats and small structures. It produces an even baked surface and edge, can be re-rolled, refrigerated and frozen, although this recipe and the ones that follow are best used on the day they have been made.
• 112g golden syrup
• 68g dark brown sugar
• 68g butter
• 300g plain flour
• 2tsp ground ginger
• ½tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 pinch of nutmeg
• 1 pinch of cloves
• ½tsp of bicarbonate of soda
• 3.75ml water
• Half a beaten egg – approximately 25g
1. Weigh and measure the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spice. Mix together until the spice is evenly distributed, then sieve into a mixing bowl.
2. Beat the egg lightly.
3. Melt the golden syrup, dark brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan until all the sugar granules have dissolved. Do not allow to boil. Allow to cool a little.
4. Make a well in the middle of the flour and spice mix and pour in the melted syrup, dark brown sugar and butter. Add the egg and water.
5. Stir with a spatula to combine and knead to form a stiff dough.
6. Transfer the dough into an airtight plastic bag (or wrap in greaseproof paper) and allow to cool completely and rest at room temperature before use.
7. Preheat oven to 180°C / Fan 160°C / Gas mark 4.
8. Roll out and cut the gingerbread to the required shapes and thickness on baking parchment or a silicone mat using a cutter or template. Then gently slide onto a flat baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Bake for 8–15 minutes until evenly golden brown. (Note that baking times will depend on the size and thickness of the items you are baking.)
9. Once cooked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow to cool a little before transferring the items to a cooling rack with the help of a palette knife.
The beautiful golden colour of gingerbread is wonderful on its own; however, when it is used in combination with different coloured gingerbreads, you can create amazing effects. Certain colours perfectly complement the natural golden hues of gingerbread – red and yellow work particularly well, as do red and green.
Edible paste colours have been used to colour gingerbread in this book. These are the same pastes used in cake decoration and sugarcraft. The paste colours are added to the butter, caster sugar and golden syrup as they are being melted together. This disperses the colour well.
Add concentrated paste colour to one batch of pale gingerbread. I use the ‘Sugarflair Extra’ range as it produces vivid colours. However, I recommend that you do a little experimentation before you commit any colour to your gingerbread.
1. Gather, weigh and measure your ingredients.
2. Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spice until the spice is evenly distributed, then sieve into a mixing bowl.
3. Melt the golden syrup, caster sugar, butter and ½tsp of your chosen food colouring together in a saucepan. Do not allow to boil.
4. Beat the egg lightly. Make a well in the middle of the flour and spice mix and pour in the egg and water.
5. Pour in the melted coloured syrup, caster sugar and butter mixture.
6. Stir with a spatula to combine.
7. Knead to form a stiff dough, then transfer the dough into an airtight food storage bag (or wrap in greaseproof paper) and allow to cool and rest at room temperature for 20–30 minutes before use.
Gingerbread Christmas Tree
1. Copy or trace the branch and tree trunk templates and cut them out. Roll out the green gingerbread dough on baking parchment or a silicone mat using 3mm spacers. Cover both sides of the template for the tree branches and one side of those for the tree trunks with vegetable shortening. Next, use a wheel cutter and the tree branch template to cut three left tree branch panels, then turn the template over and cut three right panels. Finally, use the tree trunk template to cut the two tree centre strips.
2. Roll out a sheet of classic gingerbread dough and a smaller sheet of red gingerbread dough. Next, cut a 15cm- (6in-) diameter circle from the classic gingerbread dough using a paper template. Cut out two 30mm star shapes and about forty 10mm circles. Then cut about forty 10mm red circles. Bake all the sections, the base and the decorations and allow to cool. You will also need 55 to 60 edible silver balls (dragees).
3. Pipe a wavy line of green royal icing onto one of the tree trunk strips and sandwich or fix both strips together. Allow to dry hard. You may need to trim the strips with a serrated knife first to ensure the sides are straight.
4. Fix the two star shapes together with a small amount of white royal icing.
5. Carefully trim the bottom and inside edges of the tree branch panels so they are straight and at right angles.
6. Decorate both sides of each tree panel with the small gingerbread circles and silver balls, fixing them in place with green royal icing, allow them to dry. Ensure that you set aside one or two classic gingerbread circles for fixing the star in the final stages.
13. To make gingerbread parcels to decorate cupcakes, cut a 35mm (13⁄8in) square and a 30mm (1¼in) star of classic gingerbread dough for each cupcake. Cut off two of the points from a cut-out star shape and position on top of a square. These will fuse while baking. Bake and allow to cool. Pipe lines and bows onto each parcel in your choice of colours. Fix the parcels on top of cupcakes to complete the project