Monday, 12 December 2016


Festive Recipe No. 2 ... Gingerbread Christmas Trees!

Makes: 24 Gingerbread Christmas Trees (or an unknown number of men/stars/snowmen/reindeer…).

Ingredients: 350g plain flour, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 125g butter, 175g light soft brown sugar, 1 large egg, 4 tablespoons golden syrup, writing icing or writing chocolate, and cake decorations.

Time taken: An hour to make, 15 mins to bake, and 15 mins to decorate.

Good evening readers,

And how are you, on this fine Monday evening? Are you hanging in there?? Was it a good weekend? Is it a distant memory now?

As I write, readers, we are storming on with the 2016 countdown to Christmas. How are you doing, do you think?? Have you made any progress with your ideas and cards and presents yet? With less than 2 weeks to go, it feels a lot like we’re barreling towards Christmas Day at full pelt! The sledge is out of control! Avalanche warnings! This slope leads to a ravine!    

I’m doing OHKIZAY, I think. Read into this: I’m not sorted with ideas or cards or presents. Not at all. Everyone on Facebook has done more than me, it would seem. And they all have a boyfriend, or fiancĂ©e, or husband to support them out on the festive battlefield. BUT not one to let this get me down, I located my glitter and sellotape this weekend, and can report that Christmas prep is underway in the ChefBeHere household. In that, I know where the glitter and sellotape are now.

And today, readers, I’m sharing with you my second bake of the festive season this year… it’s gingerbread!! Who out there likes gingerbread?? Are you raising your hand? If so, this could be THE festive recipe for you! As gingerbread, it turns out, is both tasty and easy to bake! Whooooooo!

So, I never knew of the wonders of gingerbread before, readers. Rock-hard shop-bought gingerbread men were (I fear) the only gingerbread I was ever exposed to during my childhood. Raised in a grey northern town. With a single tear running down my cheek. ANYHOO, until this weekend, I’d never tried to bake the stuff before. Didn’t rate it highly. Wasn’t interested.

But, while scrolling through Facebook this weekend, I remembered my wonderful trip to London a few weeks ago. I saw one of my besties, Floss (a keen baker), and remembered how she said that top of her baking list for Christmas… was gingerbread. She bakes it every year. Loves the stuff. Can’t get enough of it. And I was inspired!

I’ve made a few trips to the shops over the last couple of weeks, readers. Some very unsuccessful attempts at Christmas shopping. I’ve been doing that thing we all do where you set out with the best of intentions… but buy things solely for yourself, totally lose sight of what you went shopping for, and return home with gifts just for yours truly. That thing.

And I’ve bought soooo much festive baking gear! I’ve bought a Christmas tree cutter, festive muffin cases, fancy chocolate writing pens, golden sprinkles, Snowball chocolates, reindeer gift boxes… and it hit me this weekend the realisation that I do need to get cracking and start using these things.

Reindeer gift boxes... a Lakeland essential purchase
SO. I was inspired to bake homemade gingerbread, readers, having never tried to before – but hearing good things. And I was overexcited with a lot of new baking gear. And SOMEHOW this didn’t turn into a disaster – it worked out quite well!

Want to join the party and have a crack at some homemade gingerbread of your very own? Course you do! Here’s how you go about baking gingerbread for the first ever time…

1.     Pour yourself a festive bev and get some Christmas songs playing.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: My next door neighbour this weekend recommended mixing half and half amaretto and Baileys to make the ultimate Christmas cocktail – I’m off alcohol for a few more days… but will DEFINITELY be trying this once I can drink again!

2.     Measure the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.
3.     Next, add the butter to the bowl and use your fingertips to rub everything together, until your mix forms crumbs.
4.     Stir the sugar into the mix using a wooden spoon.
5.     Crack your egg into a mug and add four spoons of syrup.
6.     Use a fork to lightly beat the egg and syrup together, until they look as though they’ve become one.

7.     Pour this eggy goo in the mixing bowl and roughly stir together with the crumb mix.
8.     Then, get your hand back in the bowl and try to clump everything together into one big ball of gingerbread dough.
9.     Transfer your ball of dough onto a plate and pop it in the fridge to chill for ten minutes or so.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: As I’ve previously mentioned, my fridge is of the kind that chills in its own fine time. It won’t be hurried and certainly won’t affect the temperature of a dough in the space of ten minutes. What a fantastical notion. For this reason, I put my dough in the freezer instead of the fridge. You know your fridge freezer – act accordingly.
10.  Then, dance around! Clean a few dishes. Top up your drink. Pay someone a compliment.

11.  After ten minutes or so, heat the oven to 180C.
12.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper, and dust a clean kitchen side and your rolling pin with flour.
13.  Then, get that dough back out of the fridge (or freezer) and roll it out.
ChefBeHere Top Tip: You’re aiming for quite a thick thickness here. Thicker, certainly, than mince pie pastry. Thicker than UK snowfall in recent years. Not as thick as a book. But thicker than a magazine. Thick doesn’t sound like a word anymore! Maybe a centimetre? Who knows.
14.  Using cutters of any shape you like, cut out your gingerbread shapes and transfer them onto your lined baking trays, leaving a bit of a gap between each in case they should try to get cosy in the oven.

As seen here

15.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they’re looking a golden brown colour.
16.  When they look baked but are still a bit squidgy to touch, carefully take your gingerbread out of the oven.
17.  Run a spatula under each gingerbread to loosen it from the paper, and separate any that have coupled up in the oven.
18.  Lift your baking paper off the trays and onto the kitchen side so your gingerbread can cool away from the hot trays.

Thiiiiis is how we doooooo ittttt! 

When your gingerbread feel cool, then you can decorate them!
ChefBeHere Top Tip: I used one of my fancy chocolate writing kits from Wilko to draw a Christmas tree shape and tinsel, on each of my gingerbread, and then I shook some golden sprinkles over the chocolate before it set. A simple festive decoration, I think. But you can do anything you like! Maybe Smarties or JellyTots as baubles? A Magic Star as the star on your tree? Be colourful and creative!
20.  When your gingerbread decoration has set, then you can devour/serve up/share out/Tupperware for another day. Clean that kitchen and top up your drink. Pat yourself on the back… you just made gingerbread!
And ... ta-da!
That’s honestly all there is to it. When I set about making gingerbread, I had in my mind that it was sort of a trial run to see where it would go wrong and to try and fail at using a chocolate writing pen for the first time.

Turns out these are super easy to use!

But, readers, it all came good! My gingerbread mix was effortless to make, it baked well and turned a nice colour in the right amount of time (even a tray that I sat on the bottom of the oven). I had friends over that afternoon, and we all tried some and loved it! A warm, spicy taste of Christmas, and a really soft bake that I had no trouble eating – even with my poorly mouth.

Thumbs up from me, 2016’s newest gingerbread convert! Plus, this recipe makes such a generous amount you can share your gingerbread with every man and his dog and still have loads left for yourself! No one need miss out. I’ve taken gingerbread into work today, and there are Tupperwares ready to go for my Mother Bear and Father Bear, too.

I hope they all like their gingerbread. And I hope you get a chance, readers, amidst all the chaos in the run up to Christmas – to give this gingerbread recipe a try!

Make a small recipe happy this Christmas. Go on, readers.

Bake safely,


You need gingerbread in your life!

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