The internet is such an amazing tool. Last Friday I read a post on one of my favourite (Australian) food blogs Bake for Happy Kids where Zoe had made these gingerdead cookies. I thought they would be perfect for the kids to make in the run up to Halloween and so I bought the cutter from Amazon and by the next day the cutter had arrived at my house here in the UK.
Of course the kids were over the moon when I suggested making these scary Halloween Cookies. The gingerbread dough is very easy to handle and they only really needed my help to get an even thickness when rolling the dough out. I was a bit more dubious about their icing skills but they were determined to do it themselves. I showed them the first one and I found it quite difficult because I don’t have a particularly steady hand. My son who is 7 went first and was really confident and did a better job than me. The same can’t quite be said for my 4 year old but she had good fun licking the bowl.
I thought the cookie cutter was quite expensive but it worked really well and made a good impression on the raw dough which makes it easy when you come to ice them.
Now I’m off to clean up my kitchen ….. no sign of the kids.
Gingerbread men with a difference - perfect for Halloween.
40g caster sugar
40g soft dark brown sugar
75g golden syrup
250g plain flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
150g icing sugar
35ml water (or enough to make a sloppy paste)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Add the butter, sugars and golden syrup together in a saucepan and heat until the butter has melted.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl.
Add the melted butter mixture to the flour and knead until it all comes together.
Leave the dough to one side to cool slightly. It can become too hard if you cool in the refrigerator.
Dust your work surface with flour and roll the dough out to about a 5mm thickness.
Cut the shapes out using a cookie cutter.
Transfer to your baking tray and cook in the oven for about 11 - 12 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely before icing.
To ice: Mix the icing sugar and water to a paste. Use a piping bag with a small nozzle and decorate as desired.
This recipe does not work well if you try and substitute the sugars stated in the recipe. I have tried it with granulated sugar and light brown sugar and the mixture becomes very crumbly and unworkable.
My son is currently showing an interest in learning about different countries around the world and so we decided to choose one country and do a project on it. His choice was Argentina and while he showed more interest in the national sport and animals, I found myself more interested in the traditional foods (surprise, surprise). What I never knew was that one of my favourite sweet sauces, Dulce de Leche originates from Latin America. I’ve also never made my own Dulce de Leche, opting rather for the easy, off the shelf version or I make caramel sauce with cream, butter and sugar. As convenient as the tinned version is I have always thought that there is a slightly unpleasant after taste so I was keen to try and make my own. I was surprised to see that the original version of Dulce de Leche uses only milk, sugar and bicarbonate of soda and so I thought I would give it a try…
… and what started out as a simple ‘I wouldn’t mind trying that out’ became a bit of an obsession. Three days later and I have 5 jars of gorgeous, creamy, sweet, finger lickin’ good Dulce de Leche to use in all sorts of goodies in the run up to Christmas.
My first attempt was to empty a tin of condensed milk into a glass dish and bake in a water bath for about 2 hours. As the sugar in the condensed milk caramelises it turns into a beautiful golden brown and thickens up beautifully. This was the most fuss free of all methods but I did find the end result was very, very sweet and I wasn’t convinced that using a tin of condensed milk was particularly authentic. It also gave a similar aftertaste to that of the ready made tinned version.
My second attempt was to try microwaving the condensed milk in a glass bowl. This was my least favourite method. It was quick and gave the best colour but I found it hard to judge when the sauce was ready and ended up with something which resembled fudge more than a sauce.
My third attempt was to try the original method which is to boil milk, sugar and bicarb until the water evaporates from the milk and the sugar caramelises. This method was a bit more labour intensive but the flavour is far superior to the condensed milk version. The sweetness is much more subtle and just gives a nicer, smoother sauce.
I did not try the method of boiling a tin of condensed milk as I thought the end result would be too similar to the baked version.
So next time you have a spare morning at home give this a try and I guarantee you will never buy the tinned version again …
A deliciously sweet and creamy dessert sauce - perfect for filling cakes and cookies, over ice cream or straight out the jar.
Finger lickin' good!
2 litres semi skimmed milk
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Place all ingredients in a large, heavy pan. On a medium heat stir until the sugar has melted.
Reduce the heat to as low as possible and leave to simmer for another 2 - 2½ hours.
Note - During the first hour I did not have to do anything - no checking and no stirring. The next ½ an hour I just kept a close eye on the sauce and stirred every now and again. For the last ½ an hour I stirred almost constantly to prevent the sauce from sticking to the pan. For the consistency that you see in the photos I stopped when the sauce was still quite runny in the pan (100° C on a sugar thermometer). It firms up once it has cooled down.
Will keep in the fridge for over a month.
It may need to be warmed up slightly to soften before use.
What is it about the colder months that make me want to fill my cupboards, fridge, freezer, pantry, you name it, with food. It’s not as if we are ever likely to be snowed in for any length of time and yet I feel the need to store food.
Who knows, maybe I was a squirrel in my previous life or does everybody do this?
I have been filling my freezer with lots of delicious soups and stews and one of my all time favourites has to be this beef chilli. There is something really comforting about a bowl of hot, spicy chilli on a cold Autumn night. I always make a big batch and freeze into ready meal portions for those lazy days when cooking is just out of the question.
Personally I love to add some spicy sausage meat for extra flavour but of course this is not absolutely necessary.