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Christmas baking ideas: Peggy Porschen's Gingerbread Village

Christmas baking ideas: Peggy Porschen's Gingerbread Village

Written by Katie Byrne

This delicious idea works perfectly for a winter wedding - and a Christmas celebration!

Create a charming collection of gingerbread houses, people and snowflakes to hang on the Christmas tree: a beautiful winter-wonderland display.  

Makes approximately 25–30 cookies, depending on size

You will need...

- 5 tbsp water

- 210g light brown sugar

- 3 tbsp treacle

- 3 tbsp golden syrup

- 3 tbsp ground ginger

- 3 tbsp ground cinnamon

- 1 tsp ground cloves

- 250g salted butter, cold and diced

- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

- 560g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

- ½ quantity royal icing

- Selection of townhouse, snowflake and gingerbread man and woman cookie cutters

- Small electric drill with drill bit for food use only, approximately 4mm (¼in) diameter

- Laser-cut townhouse stencils

- Paper piping bag

- Mini candy canes (optional)

- Red gingham ribbon, for hanging

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

2. To make the gingerbread: place the water, brown sugar, treacle, golden syrup, ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves into a deep saucepan. Over a medium heat, bring the mixture to the boil while stirring continuously. Remove from the heat, gradually add the diced butter and stir until combined. Add the bicarbonate of soda: take care as the mixture will swell up at this point. Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature.

3. Once cool, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Sift in the flour and slowly mix together to form a slightly wet and sticky dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 2 hours or until cool and firm.

4. On a floured surface roll out the gingerbread dough to a thickness of approximately 5–6mm. Using your selection of cookie cutters, cut out the various house, snowflake, man and woman shapes and place them onto the prepared baking trays. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

5. Bake for 8–10 minutes, depending on size, or until the cookies spring back to the touch and are slightly darker around the edges.

6. To make the ribbon holes: once the cookies are baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. To make the ribbon holes, I use a small electric drill with a clean, sterilised drill bit. Place the cookie on a wire cooling rack, then holding the electric drill vertically, make a small hole in the top of the cookie. This method prevents the cookie from breaking.

7. Alternatively, while the cookies are still hot, use a tiny round cookie cutter or the tip of a long thin piping nozzle to make the ribbon holes. As the cookies are hot, take care not to burn your fingers when using this method.

8. To ice the cookies: prepare your royal icing, mixing it to a soft-peak consistency. Keep the icing covered with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.

9. To decorate the townhouse cookies, place a stencil on the surface of a cookie, holding it down at one end to prevent it from moving. Using a palette knife, scoop up a small amount of icing and spread it thinly over the stencil, ensuring that all gaps are covered. This appears trickier than it really is, as once the icing touches the stencil it helps to hold it in position. Carefully lift off the stencil and leave the iced cookie to dry. Clean the stencil before using it again.

10. To decorate the snowflake and gingerbread man and woman cookies, prepare a paper piping bag. Fill the piping bag with soft-peak consistency royal icing and cut a small section from the tip of the bag. Pipe the outlines and details onto each cookie as preferred. Use the same piping bag to pipe an outline onto the townhouse cookies. While the icing is still wet, stick candy canes to the gingerbread man cookies.


11. Once all the cookies are decorated and dry, thread pieces of gingham ribbon through the holes. Hang the cookies on a tree to create a pretty winter village display.

Peggy's top tips...

- Humid or damp conditions can make gingerbread go soft. If the air is too dry, the icing can fall off.

- The secret to perfectly piped swirls is to use the ‘lifting’ method, in which the piping bag hovers just above the cookie.

- Stencilling can appear more difficult than it really is. once the icing touches the cookie, it will help to hold the stencil in place.

Recipe taken from Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen (published by Quadrille); photography: Georgia Glynn Smith.

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