For my birthday this year, I was given ‘The Handmade Loaf‘ by Dan Lepard. It’s a wonderful book that shares many traditional bread recipes from around the world along with stories from other bakers. Dan Lepard really goes into the art and the science of baking, showing many techniques to get the perfect artisan loaf. It is beautifully photographed and very inspiring – I can’t recommend it highly enough (in case you hadn’t noticed!).
This recipe for gingerbread is from that book with a couple of my own slight variations – primarily to keep it sugar-free and to lower the amount of dairy for those with special dietary requirements. The result is a beautifully spiced, slightly chewy gingerbread biscuit (which can be made into any shape your heart desires – if smiley faces don’t float your boat!).
Sugar-Free Gingerbread Smiley Faces
Makes approx 30 gingerbreads
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp ground ginger
2 cardamom pods (seeds only)
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
250g raw, local honey
150g coconut oil (or butter)
2 tbsp heavy cream (or use kefir or coconut cream)
400g wholewheat or spelt flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp sea salt
1. Grind all whole spices together in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until finely ground.
2. Gently melt coconut oil (or butter) in a saucepan over a low heat until melted. Stir in the honey until well mixed. Allow to cool until warm and then add the cream.
3. In a large bowl, mix flour, bicarb soda and all the spices. Break up any lumps with your fingers.
4. Add honey mixture to the flour mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
5. Tip the dough onto a sheet of cling wrap and roll into a sausage shape, wrapping with the cling wrap.
6. Pop the dough into the fridge for a couple of hours until it is firmer (but still easy to work). I left mine in the fridge overnight which left it too hard the next day so I had to allow it to soften slightly before I could roll it out.
7. Preheat your oven to 210oC and line a baking tray with baking paper.
8. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out your dough to a thickness of about 1/2cm. If your dough is sticking to your rolling pin, flour the rolling pin as well.
9. Using a cookie cutter of your choice (the original recipe suggests a 8cm round one, mine was 7cm), cut out your gingerbread shapes and place on the baking tray. Leave around a centimetre between each one as they will expand slightly as they cook. Don’t worry if they don’t all fit on the baking tray – we will just do them in 2-3 batches.
10. Make your egg glaze by whisking all the egg glaze ingredients together, then lightly paint the top of each cookie using a pastry brush (just the ones on the tray, otherwise they will get too soggy to move).
11. Using a skewer, toothpick, fork or your child’s fingers, draw a pattern of your choice on top of the cookies. Try smiley faces, hearts or criss crosses.
12. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Check regularly as these go from done to burnt in the blink of an eye.
13. Turn on to a wire rack to cool and cook the rest.
Now you’re ready to gather your family, put on a pot of tea and share a plate of gingerbread. (Goodness, it sounds like something out of the Famous Five, doesn’t it!).
by Mel Duncan