Gingerbread Men and Bears

I have been baking for a few years but never baked any festive cake or cookies to celebrate Christmas.  My ex-boss loves Christmas dried fruit cake.  One day, I may attempt to make one.  This year I started with gingerbread men and bear.  History of gingerbread men (also known as gingerbread boy) can be traced back to 1875. It is a folktale about a gingerbread man’s escape (YouTube video) from various pursuers and his eventual destiny between the jaws of a fox.

A childless old woman bakes a gingerbread man.  He leaps from the oven and runs away. The woman and her husband chase him, but are unable to catch him. The gingerbread man then outruns several farm workers and farm animals, while provoking them with the phrase:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

And I can run away from you, I can!”

The tale ends with a fox catching and eating the gingerbread man who cries as he is devoured, “I’m quarter gone…I’m half gone…I’m three-quarters gone…I’m all gone!”

There are many gingerbread men recipes. Though it remains a common subject of American children’s literature, I chose not to experiment it with any American recipe as my impression of American cookies are soft, not crunchy.  Instead, I took BBC’s recipe with cake flour, reduced sugar proportion and substitutes for brown sugar. Afterall, I did not use a food processor.

350g cake flour (instead of plain flour) plus extra for rolling out
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger (it’s subtle, will attempt it 3 tsp next time)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g butter
125g muscovado sugar, 25g palm sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp golden syrup

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon and pour into the bowl . Add the butter. Mix and rub until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugars.

Lightly beat the egg and golden syrup together, add to flour mixture and knead until the mixture clumps together. Tip the dough out, knead briefly until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Roll the dough out to a 0.5cm/¼in thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use cutters to cut out the gingerbread men and bear shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a gap between them.

Bake for 12–15 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling. When cooled decorate with the writing icing and cake decorations, if using.

I put the gingerbread men into the oven first. 3-4 minutes later I inserted the tray of gingerbread bears as they are smaller and thinner.

Some were made presents to ex-colleagues: Wing, Emily, Coco and Julia.  Keith, my school friend, drove to my village to pick them up.  He was very happy and gave me hugs which is not typical between Chinese friends.  I felt warm.  Friendship of a long long term.

To make the icing, mix 30g of icing sugar and maximum 1.5 teaspoon warm water.  I added 1 teaspoon warm water first.  Then added 0.25 teaspoon to get the right consistency.


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