The perfect baking soundtrack? Good Food favourite Fairytale of New York playing in the background.
These little figures made out of sweet, spiced dough have a long history. One popular fairytale tells the story of an old couple who baked a gingerbread man, only to have him escape from their oven.
Decorating gingerbread people with icing is great fun and is easy to do using ready-made icing pens. Alternatively, combine some icing sugar with just enough milk to make a thick glaze. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a very small nozzle and get creative!
- 210g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1¼ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 85g butter, at room temperature
- 90g raw sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 50g molasses
- 1 white icing pen
- Sift the flour with the spices, bicarbonate of soda and pinch of salt into a bowl and set aside. Beat the butter in a separate bowl until creamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Stir in the egg yolk and molasses. Add the flour mixture in several batches and mix to a smooth dough. Cover and rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper. Lightly dust your benchtop with flour and roll out the dough about 3mm thick. Using a cutter, cut the dough into people shapes and transfer to the trays. Bake for 8–12 minutes, depending on size. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Decorate with icing.
Makes about 25–30
If you're looking to make some special Christmas cookies, try these pretty stained-glass biscuits. The powdered lollies melt in the oven to create colourful little 'windows'. They also make lovely Christmas tree decorations: simply make a hole in the cookies before baking and then pull some ribbon through the hole.
- 300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 200g butter, at room temperature
- 120g raw sugar
- 1 egg
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp grated lemon zest
- about 180g boiled lollies in various colours
- Combine the flour with the baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in a separate bowl until creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Fold in the flour mixture in two batches to make a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 160C and line two baking trays with baking paper. Sort the lollies by colour and pulse to a fine powder in a small food processor. Transfer to bowls, separated by colour. Dust your benchtop lightly with flour, roll the dough out thinly, about 3mm, and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes, such as Christmas trees, stars or baubles.
- Transfer the cookies onto the trays. Cut out small shapes from inside the cookies and fill these with a little of the powdered lollies. If you are planning to use the cookies as decorations, also make a small hole for the ribbon. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes, and leave to cool on the trays.
Makes about 60
Photo: Julia Cawley
Chocolate fruit cake
- 100g dried apricots
- 100g dates
- 100g dried figs
- 100g prunes
- 100g raisins
- 140g dried cherries
- 1 vanilla bean
- 100ml bourbon or rum
- 100ml hot water
- 160g plain flour
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 120g pistachios, finely chopped
- 120g pecans, finely chopped
- 120g almonds, finely chopped
- 100g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa), coarsely chopped
- 75g dried cranberries, chopped
- 100g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the tin
- 100g dark brown sugar
- 2 eggs
For the topping
- blanched almonds
- mixed dried fruit to taste
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp apricot jam
- Coarsely chop the apricots, dates, figs and prunes and transfer the chopped fruit to a heatproof bowl together with the raisins and cherries. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla bean to the dried fruit and set the seeds aside. Warm the bourbon and add to the fruit together with the hot water. Marinate for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain the fruit, reserving the liquid. Discard the vanilla bean.
- Preheat the oven to 160C). Butter a 23cm spring-form cake tin and line with baking paper.
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in the nuts, chocolate and cranberries. Beat the butter and sugar in another bowl until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir in the vanilla seeds. Use a wooden spoon to fold in first the soaked dried fruit and then the nut, fruit and flour mixture. Transfer the batter to the prepared tin, level the top and garnish with almonds.
- Bake the cake for 60–75 minutes. Cover with baking paper after about half the baking time. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Coarsely chop the extra mixed dried fruit and sprinkle on top of the cake. Heat about 200ml of the reserved soaking liquid over low heat and stir in the sugar and jam. Drizzle the cake with the glaze before serving.
Makes one 23cm cake
This is an edited extract from New York Christmas Baking by Lisa Nieschlag and Lars Wentrup, published by Murdoch Books, RRP $35.00; photography Julia Cawley