I baked this batch for my boss as a Christmas thankyou, and the few I had left over disappeared in record time.
The recipe I use is adapted from this one on Taste.com. It’s easy and full of flavour, and has that perfect gingerbread texture. Yum!
Gingerbread Men (and Women) with Royal Icing
Prep and baking time: 1 hour; Makes 15-20.
- 125g butter, soft
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup golden syrup (some recipes call for treacle or molasses – this is pretty much the same thing)
- 1 fresh, clean egg, separated
- 2 1/2 cups plain flour
- 1.5 tbs ground ginger
- 1.5 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Several cups of icing sugar or icing mixture
- Food colouring
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Using an electric beater, beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture turns pale.
- Add the golden syrup and egg yolk (save the white for later), and beat well.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda until combined.
- Place the dough on a hard surface (a marble bench top is ideal), and knead it until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
- Once dough has rested, remove from the fridge and roll out between two sheets of baking paper to the desired thickness. Cut shapes from dough as desired, and transfer to baking tray. Use some extra flour if the dough gets too sticky, and some extra water if it is too dry.
- Bake gingerbread for 10 minutes or until it starts to brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack, being careful not to break the gingerbread shapes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- For the Royal Icing: Place the left over egg white in a mixing bowl, and beat it until frothy. Still beating, begin to add icing sugar slowly. Continue adding sugar until the icing mixture forms stiff peaks.
- Add food colouring if desired, and put icing mixture into a piping bag.
- Once gingerbread shapes have cooled, pipe on royal icing to decorate.
Just before I go, a quick note on royal icing: I am probably the most paranoid person in the world when it comes to food-bourne illnesses, and the thought of eating uncooked egg sends a shiver down my spine. However, nothing does the trick for decorating gingerbread and holding together gingerbread houses like royal icing. I put my research cap on, and looked into the safety profile of royal icing.
Safety factors (I repeat these over and over in my head):
- If you use a clean, fresh egg (you can wash it immediately beforehand with soap, if you like), the chances of getting salmonella (particularly in Australia) are minute.
- Royal icing has been made for many, many years, and I could not find a single reported case of someone getting salmonella from it.
- Royal icing is still used by commercial bakeries and cafes, so obviously it is not a significant hazard.
- The amount of sugar in the mixture acts as a preservative, and stops any nasties growing in the egg white, which is not known for being a good incubator for bacteria anyway.
- Royal icing dries hard and dry (funny, that), leaving no or very little water content for bacteria to grow in.
- I ate it (you’d be impressed, if you knew how crazy paranoid I am), and it was delicious, and the sky did not fall in, and I did not die. Win.
With all that in mind, if you are still nervous, there are alternatives using meringue powder and pasteurised dried egg. However, it is unclear whether these actually reduce the “risk” at all. And always remember, there are certain people who can’t have uncooked or unpasteurised egg, including pregnant people, so make sure to let them know about the icing if you are handing out your delicious hand make cookies!