Yes, it's all finished. Exactly two weeks after starting work on my 2010 Christmas Cookie List, it's done. I've made a few substitutions, some things went horribly wrong, and I had a few happy surprises. I'm not going to lie to you and say that I've enjoyed every minute of it - I most definitely did not. But it is very nice looking at the end product, and knowing (hoping, actually) that people will enjoy it.
You'll notice that I actually didn't do 12 cookies. I did 11 cookies, including the gingerbread house, and then some fabulous caramel corn for a bit of variation. The recipe I used is from Not Quite Nigella, and you can find the recipe here. I followed the recipe to the letter, except for one thing. If you're wondering why my popcorn looks as if it has melted chocolate stirred through, it's because it has melted chocolate stirred through. I decided at the last minute that this was the perfect occasion to get rid of some chocolate chips I had in the cupboard. They melted very quickly, though, and didn't stay the little chunks I envisioned originally. But I tell you, I started scoffing this down before it was even cooled down. It is by far the most delicious thing I've eaten in quite a while. Please make it your New Year's resolution to try this as soon as possible. At least it will be one resolution you're likely to keep.
You'll also notice that I only made 1 gingerbread house, for us, instead of 11 to give to all our friends and family. Let's blame the new house and Little Girl. Next year I'll start earlier and make more. Also, I heard one family member say last year that he hates gingerbread. Maybe I should reconsider if it is the best possible gift to make.
I love this gingerbread. It is very spicy, with added coffee and dark rum. I use ginger, mixed spice, black pepper and cardamom, my ultimate favourite spice. The Fabulous Man is a massive gingerbread fan, which is why I started making it in the first place, and even though I've never heard the magic words "This gingerbread is not as good as my wife's", it's the recipe I'm sticking to. The Royal Icing recipe is from Dorie Greenspan, and I'm sticking to it too. It's easy to make, stays nice and moist in the bowl, but dries rock hard on the cookies. I realise that it's not the best to use for the gingerbread, and next year I might use it only for the decoration, and try melted chocolate for the actual construction. Next year.
Speaking of decoration, I realise that this is probably the ugliest gingerbread house on the block. I'm not sure why I'm struggling so much this year with my icing. Then again, when the Little Girl saw the house all assembled, she kept on saying "Wow! Wow!", while trying to get herself a piece. And that is after all what this is all about.
A final few photos, then. Until next Christmas.
Filled with Christmas cookies
Suspect icing skills
Double the recipe for a house, otherwise makes about 30 cookies, depending on the size of your cutter.
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice
4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
1/2 cup (80g) brown sugar
1/3 cup (125g) treacle
2 tablespoons good instant coffee, disolved in a little bit of boiling water
1 tablespoon dark rum
Sift flour, soda and ginger into a bowl. Place butter, sugar and golden syrup into a saucepan. Cook over low heat, until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Add the coffee and the rum, mix. Cool.
Pour the treacle into the flour mixture, and combine. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead until smooth. Cover with plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. Cut out shapes and carefully place onto trays. Bake for 8 minutes.
Cool biscuits on trays for 5 minutes, then onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Dorie Greenspan's Royal Icing
3 1/4 cups (or more) powdered sugar, sifted
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon strained fresh lemon juice
Using electric mixer, beat 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar and egg whites until thick and shiny, adding more powdered sugar by tablespoonfuls if mixture is too thin to spread, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Divide icing into portions, if desired, and add different food coloring to each. Cover until ready to use.