Spoiler alert – a recipe for delicious gingerbread cookies that look like little Christmas puddings. And lots of chat about failing, stress, and picking yourself back up. If you’re just here for the recipe, then skip to the bottom!
I had such big plans for Christmas on this blog. There was going to be a new recipe every day during Advent – it was going to be the most festive place to be in all of the internet. But it just wasn’t to be. My real life job got in the way – Christmas is a very stressful time to be an accountant, and it’s extra specially difficult for me this year. So many deadlines, so little time, and so few people to help me.
And although I have still had my weekends free, it’s proven very difficult to get out of bed and actually do things. I like a little bit of stress and pressure in my usual work-life – it keeps me motivated. But the levels I’ve been facing at the moment just aren’t sustainable, and so something had to give. And unfortunately it was baking and writing.
Luckily, I baked a few Christmas treats back in October/November, when I still had motivation. So this blog doesn’t have to grind to a halt like it did this time last year. It just won’t be the Christmas wonderland I wanted it to be. But maybe that’s okay? Because for the first time this weekend I actually managed to get out of bed, go and have some fun with friends, and write this recipe post. The only way is up.
All my Christmas shopping is done, and all my gifts are wrapped. I am clinging on to the fact that once Christmas is here all the stress and deadlines will be over, and I can spend the two week Christmas break relaxing, eating, and brainstorming lots of new ideas for 2018 on this blog. Because sometimes when you fail and don’t meet the stupidly high expectations you set yourself, you’ve just got to accept the defeat, take some time to relax, and then get back in the kitchen nice and refreshed.
I’m definitely looking forward to looking back over the pat 12 months and reminiscing about all the great things I’ve achieved this year. At the start of the year I set myself the goal of getting 5,000 views a month by the end of 2017, and I well and truly hit that out the park with December forecasted to hit about 10,000. I feel like I’ve made great strides in my photography and styling, and I’ve conquered recipes I would never dreamt of making before – the royal icing on these gingerbread Christmas pudding cookies (and the peanut butter iced cookies) being a highlight. Plus, I had my first ever birthday cake commission, which turned out amazingly.
And you guys make it all worthwhile. I love getting emails from readers who have loved my recipes, or want some advice on how to make a wedding cake. I love seeing how popular my super white buttercream is getting, and the feedback from you all is wonderful. My favourite blogger Sally from SBA pinned my peach raspberry ice pops recipe, which absolutely made my day. And it’s been super fun getting to know fellow bakers over on twitter – you guys constantly inspire me to up my game.
If you’ve made it this far then I thank you. I do write this blog for my readers, but I also use it as my own personal journal to document my baking achievements and keep track of my favourite recipes. And every now and again things just get personal. So hopefully you’ll forgive me for going off topic a little.
But, if you’re thinking of baking these gingerbread cookies then seriously, get on it. They have a spicy treacle (or molasses) kick, and a little bit of cocoa powder to add some much needed chocolate to proceedings. You could definitely make gingerbread men instead of puddings if you want – although there’s something super cute and extra festive about the little sprigs of holly and drizzles of royal icing, don’t you think?
Normal service will be resumed later this week, or maybe early next. No pressure.
- 90g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 150g (¾ cup) dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 120ml (½ cup) black treacle or molasses
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 310g (2½ cups) plain or all-purpose flour
- 50g (½ cup) cocoa powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1½ tablespoons ground ginger
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 400g (3¼ cups) icing sugar or powdered sugar
- 15g (2 tablespoons) powdered egg whites
- Small amounts of red and green fondant icing for the leaves and berries
- Edible glue, writing icing, or melted chocolate to attach the leaves and berries
- Place the butter in a medium bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and beat well on high until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and beat for another minute until well combined. Add the egg, treacle, and vanilla extract, and beat again on high until completely mixed and smooth.
- Sift the flour, cocoa, and add the baking powder into the bowl with the wet ingredients, and add the salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Fold together gently (use the lowest setting on your stand mixer) until only just combined.
- Split the dough into two balls, and wrap each with clingfilm or plastic wrap. Pop in the fridge to chill for an hour or two.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (170°C fan) and line two baking sheets with baking parchment - there's no need to grease.
- Take one half of the gingerbread dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about ¼ inch thick. Use a round cutter to cut out circles from the dough, and then place these on the lined baking sheets. The dough won't spread very much (if at all) so you only need to leave a couple of centimetres gap between them. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are firm. The centres may feel a little soft, but that's okay as they will harden up slightly when cooling. Leave on the baking sheet to cool until firm enough to remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Repeat the process with the second batch of dough - you can leave it in the fridge for up to 3-4 days if wanted, and then leave out at room temperature for an hour before rolling baking.
- Sift the icing sugar into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the powdered egg whites as well as 4 tablespoons of water. Beat for five minutes using the beater blade attachment. Add a little more water, half a tablespoon at a time, until the icing is at the right consistency for piping. There’s a nice trick to work out when you’ve added enough water: drizzle some of the icing back onto itself in the bowl, and time how long it takes for the line of drizzle to completely disappear. You are aiming for 15 seconds, or just over.
- Pipe the icing around the edge of each cookie, and then fill the middle with more icing. Use a toothpick to even up the icing until it is smooth and covers the whole cookie. Leave the cookie to completely dry (overnight is best) before decorating.
- To make the holly leaves, roll out green fondant on a surface lightly covered in icing sugar (powdered sugar) until quite thin. Use a very small leaf cutter (or just use a knife) to make the leaf shapes. The berries can be easily make by rolling tiny bits of red fondant into balls in your hands. I used edible glue to stick the berries and leaves onto the dry cookies.
- The baked and iced cookies will stay fresh in a air-tight container for almost a week - there is no need to keep them in the fridge. The baked (not iced) cookies can also be frozen for up to three months. Defrost at room temperature and then store in an air-tight container for up to 7 days.
- The unbaked cookie dough can be frozen for up to three months. Wrap the dough tightly in cling film or plastic wrap, and then defrost at room temperature before rolling out and baking.