When I think of Christmas cookies, gingerbread is the first thing that comes to mind; to me they are the quintessential festive cookie and Christmas wouldn’t be complete without having baked a batch or three. The smell of them cooking is guaranteed to put you in a festive mood, they are really easy to make and they will keep for at least a couple of weeks so are perfect for a busy season.
The gingerbread dough can take quite a bit of punishment so these cookies are ideal to make with children as a fun festive project to keep them entertained. They will have loads of fun decorating them as well – the results may not be as neat and pretty as these ones, but provide the kids with a variety of colours of icing and plenty of sprinkles and it will keep them busy for hours! (And even if the cookies are a bit of a mess they will still taste great!)
You can use whatever shape of cookie cutter you like, I went for snowflakes and stars but you could also use the dough to make make gingerbread men, Christmas trees, hearts or even dinosaurs!
The royal icing is super easy to make – just a matter of stirring powdered sugar, lemon juice and egg white together until it reaches the right consistency; and it is a great way to transform plain cookies into beautiful festive ones. You do need a steady hand for piping, but even if it goes a bit wibbly the cookies will still look impressive (mine are certainly nowhere near perfect!).
I couldn’t resist sprinkling the cookies with a bit of edible glitter, it is Christmas after all! This is totally optional of course but who doesn’t want a sparkly cookie?!
Please note that the royal icing contains raw egg so be sure to use pasteurized egg white from a carton if that is of a concern. The cookies will keep for two weeks in an airtight container.
Here’s what you’ll need:
For the gingerbread:
- 3.5 oz butter, cubed
- 1/3 + 1/8 cup light brown soft sugar (packed)
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tbsp treacle
- 1 tbsp water
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 cups all purpose flour
For the royal icing:
- 2 + 1/3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 large egg white
1.Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup, treacle, water and orange zest in a pan and heat gently while stirring until it is melted and smooth.
2.Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the spices and baking soda, followed by the flour. Mix until it forms a smooth dough then cover the pan and place in the fridge for about an hour, until the dough is firm.
3.Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking trays with baking parchment. Bring the dough together into a ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and place them slightly spaced apart on the baking trays. Re-roll the scraps to cut out more shapes.
4.Place the trays in the freezer for 15 minutes until firm then bake for 10-15 minutes until the cookies feel firm when lightly pressed and have begun to darken a little around the edges. The smaller ones will cook quicker than big ones so try to group similar sized ones together on the trays. Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5.Once the cookies are cool, make the royal icing. Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice. Stir in the egg white a little at a time until the icing is smooth and thick but pipe-able; if you drizzle some back into the bowl the pattern should disappear after about 8 seconds. If it is too thick then add a little more egg white (or lemon juice if you’ve run out), and if it is too runny then add a little more sifted powdered sugar.
6.Spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a 1mm plain round nozzle. Pipe snowflake designs onto the cookies (Pinterest is a great place to get inspiration for patterns!) and set them aside for half an hour to dry. Sprinkle with edible glitter if using and tuck in!