Gingerbread men are the ideal Christmas recipe to occupy a wet afternoon. They can be cut small to hang from ribbons on the tree, or pack in gift bags for the neighbors.. When larger they form a protective army around the Christmas cake. At Simon’s Mas in the Roussillon near Perpignan where we all spend the holidays, the five grandchildren — four girls and boy — join around the big kitchen table. We take one very English ingredient with us — the essential golden syrup which makes the dough easy to knead and roll as well as the characteristic sweetness that is so different from brown sugar.
Makes three dozen 5-inch/12-cm gingerbread men
1 cup/400 g golden syrup
10 tablespoons/150 g butter, more for the baking sheet
4 cups/500 g flour, more for rolling
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of baking soda
Prepared icing pens
2-3 tablespoons currants
5-inch/12-cm gingerbread man cookie cutter
- To make the dough: Heat the golden syrup and butter in a pan until melted, stir to mix them, and set aside to cool. Lift the flour, ginger, allspice and baking soda into a bowl and make a well in the center. add the cooled golden syrup and stir with your hand to make a smooth dough — it will be quite soft but if it is sticky, work in a little more flour and press it into a ball. Cover the dough with a cloth an
d chill until firm about 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC and set a shelf near the center. Butter two baking sheets. Turn the dough into a floured work surface and cut it in half. Roll one half to about 1/8 inch/3 mm thickness. Stamp out gingerbread men with the cookie cutter and set them on the baking sheet. Decorate them with the icing pens, marking faces, hands and boots, with currants for buttons. Chill in the freezer until firm, 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile press the dough trimmings into the remaining dough, roll, shape more men, set them on the second baking sheet and chill.
- Bake the gingerbread men in the oven until golden brown around the edges 7-8 minutes. Transfer them too a rack to cool. Gingerbread men do well in an airtight container for up to a week.