Schools may be back, but with the darkening evenings and limits on gatherings still in place, and so many options for entertaining kids still off-limits, plenty of parents are still in need of activities to keep their little ones entertained.
Luckily, autumn is baking season (every season should be baking season really, but autumn particularly so thanks to bake off and our patisserie masterclass course), and getting your children involved in the kitchen is a lovely way to spend time together and start to develop some important life skills. This recipe for gingerbread people is an easy win because of the options for cutting out different shapes and decorating the biscuits after baking, even if that last stage can get a bit messy. But isn’t that half the fun? (It’s certainly more fun than the cleaning up!)
- 175g dark muscovado sugar
- 85g golden syrup
- 100g butter
- 400g plain flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 egg
- Place a saucepan over a medium heat and melt the butter, then add the syrup and sugar and stir until melted. Little people can help with this if you have a step for them to stand on, but supervise them the whole time. Bring to a gentle boil for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and set aside to cool.
- Get a large bowl and tip in all of the dry ingredients, then make a well in the middle. Beat the egg in a cup and pour into the well, followed by the cooled butter and syrup mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon, then once it has pulled together into a dough, knead it in the bowl. This can get difficult for younger children as the dough forms, so you may need to take over. You can add a bit more flour if the dough is too loose, but don’t worry about it being overly soft.
- Cover the bowl with cling film or place the ball of dough in an old plastic bread bag or similar, and place in the fridge for about an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6
- Take the dough out of the fridge and leave it for ten minutes or so to warm up a bit so that it is soft enough to roll out.
- Dust your work surface with flour and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until 5-8mm thick – no thicker than a pencil. Use a cutter to cut out your gingerbread people (or any other shapes – Christmas trees if you’re doing this recipe later in the year, perhaps?), nesting the shapes close together to get as many biscuits out of your rolled dough as possible. Then bundle up the scraps and offcuts of dough, roll into a ball and roll out again so that you can cut out more biscuits. Repeat until you’ve used all of your dough.
- Place your gingerbread people (or shapes) on baking trays lined with baking paper, being sure to leave some space between each biscuit so that they don’t merge together as they puff up in the oven. This recipe will easily make enough to fill two baking trays.
- Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. If you have two trays in the oven then swap them around half way through.
- Take the trays from the oven and set aside to cool, then transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely, especially if decorating.
- If you have any icing sugar or ready-made cake decorating icing (the little squirty tubes) then you or your small person can decorate the gingerbread, and you can also use it to stick on small sweets or chocolates for eyes or buttons, then leave it to set.
*When Christmas comes around, you can use this recipe to create six flat panels of gingerbread (two rectangular wall panels, two gable ends and two roof panels) and stick them together icing as mortar to make a gingerbread house. Children can decorate the house, and you can make gingerbread people and trees that they can use to create a wintery scene.