Christmas Mayhem

Every year I get a bit ambitious and try to do too much over Christmas, this year was no exception.  I had left all my shopping last minute had to make a last minute dash to the shops to get everything done in time.

Another one of my impossible tasks was to make a gingerbread house based on the gingerbread men recipe in the first Hummingbird Bakery book.  My first mistake was that I didn’t realise that you had to let the dough rest overnight.  I had way too much to do the next day (Christmas Eve!) so I gave up on my gingerbread house idea and settled for gingerbread men.

I started making the dough by mixing the sugar and butter first and beating in the egg and treacle.  Now I’ve never experienced black treacle before and was slightly intrigued/disgusted by what I saw! It looked like crude oil! But I had faith in the recipe and carried on.

I then added the flour bit by bit, along with all the spices and bicarbonate of soda.  I was definitely excited about the amount of spices going into the recipe. Ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg not only creates this beautiful Christmassy aroma when cooking, it makes everything taste great!

My baby whisk was starting to make crazy noises again, a regular occurrence now and I hoped that it wouldn’t break before finishing the dough.  Thankfully it made it through and I managed to get the dough mixed, I wrapped it in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day brought with it the task of cutting out the gingerbread shapes and baking them.  As I made twice the amount of dough to have enough for the gingerbread house, I had a lot of gingerbread mean to cut out.  They cookies only needed 9 minutes in my oven before they were perfect so I started a little one-person production line.

The dough was finally finished and all the cookies baked.  I let them cool while I finished wrapping presents and getting ready for a dinner party.  Then came the fun job of decorating them.

I always thought royal icing was simply mixing water and icing sugar; apparently this isn’t royal icing – oops.  I can now proudly say it’s made from egg whites, lemon juice and icing sugar.

I started decorating by making smiley faces for all gingerbread men before colouring the icing blue and making little buttons.  I was a bit short of time (and by a bit I mean I had around 10 minutes to decorate around 50 cookies) so I kept it simple.

The gingerbread men were distributed among neighbours and friends and were thoroughly enjoyed on Christmas Eve.  They tasted really good, all the spices went amazingly well together and that beautiful Christmassy smell stayed in the house for days. It’s true what they say – once you taste a homemade gingerbread man you can’t go back – well they don’t technically say that but they should.

A Mission To Reach Perfection….With A Banana Loaf!

With the success of making the lemon loaf, I decided to try another recipe to see if I can use all the batter this time.  If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I’m a bit of a perfectionist.  So here goes my second attempt, my excuse for baking this week was Father’s day.

For some reason, I get really excited when I have to put different spices into cakes because I know however they turn out, they definitely won’t be labelled as bland.  This cake had a mixture of cinnamon and ginger in it.  The job of mashing up the bananas was allocated to my father (as it was father’s day I wanted to ‘include’ him in the preparation!) and was apparently quite fun to do.

Last time I made a loaf, I was worried the batter would overflow so didn’t put all of it in and made a few cupcakes.  This time, I wanted to see if I could use all of the batter.  Ignoring my gut feeling not to, I put all the batter into the pre greased and dusted tin, put it in the oven and forbid myself to open the door until it was done.

Now you’re probably waiting for me to tell you of my complete failure; but it didn’t turn out that bad.  It was all nicely cooked; it just decided to not look very much like a loaf.  Instead of rising, as the cake hadn’t cooked enough before the batter rose to the top; it collapsed and spread along the sides of the tin. It ended up looking more like a mushroom if I’m honest.

This turned the simple act of getting a cake out of the tin into a very tricky experience; thankfully I somehow managed it and left the cake to cool.  I grabbed my father and rushed him off to his Father’s Day present, dinner and the ballet.

Regardless of its interesting shape; the cake  turned out really well,  it was very moist and the mix of banana and spices complimented eachother really well; each not being too overpowering.  Definately one to try EVEN if you don’t like bananas!