By Jonny Garrett
Gingerbread – it’s the snack that time forgets. I go 10 months of the year not giving it a second’s thought and then, as soon as winter hits, it’s all I can think about. That and mince pies.
Gingerbread is the perfect thing to bake with kids. It’s easy and super quick to make, and the real fun starts just when baking normal cookies gets boring.
The basics of gingerbread dough are really simple, and you probably have your own recipe. If not there are lots of great ones out there. You can’t decorate Jamie’s gingerbread recipe, but it is the most incredible one you will ever eat.
Once you have your recipe, the kids can get involved beating the mixture and rolling it out ready to bake. Once they’re done you’ll need lots of homemade icing (somehow not all of it seems to reach the biscuits) as well as sweets, chocolates and dried fruits to make the eyes and buttons, or anything else your kids might come up with. Make sure you have lots of different kinds of cutters – anything from gingerbread men (and women!) to angels, animals and stars. The more festive ones could make lovely tree decorations if you prick a hole in them before baking. You can then just tie a ribbon around them and hang them up. But if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious…
The gingerbread house
I always recommend gingerbread houses to people with trepidation. In our house, not a Christmas goes by that we don’t all suggest making one at some point, but wartime flashbacks of our last attempt inevitably stop us.
You probably think I’m talking about getting it to actually stand up and look like a house, but actually our flashbacks are more about the sheer amount of gingerbread we ate – the off-cuts to make things fit that either go in the bin or in your mouth.
That said, gingerbread houses are tricky – you’ll get out a set square for the first time since school. The lovely Georgie from our food team has come up with a great gingerbread house recipe (importantly using walls that won’t crumble), but it’s probably best to get the kids to help make the dough, then actually assemble it yourself.
To be honest, we started too big, and if you’re cooking with kids there is no need for the Roman villa that we created. On a small scale it’s a brilliant thing to do at Christmas with the family – a great chance to spend some time together enjoying some naughty sweets and a laugh or two, as the walls come crumbling down and the chimney falls off.
Once it’s stable and dry, the young ones can start decorating it. We’ll leave that to them, but we hope that lollipop trees, chocolate finger fences and milk button roof slates will all feature. Don’t forget to Instagram, tweet or Facebook your creations and the genius designers behind them – we love to see what you come up with.
If you’re not ready to go straight into a gingerbread house, why not practice by making Jools’ gingerbread men: