The church biscuit: 72. Snowflake biscuits & 73. Gingerbread houses

Snowflake biscuits (Plain biscuit recipe from Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits; Kyle Cathie, 2010)

Snowflake biscuits (Plain biscuit recipe from Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits; Kyle Cathie, 2010)

Last week the vicar and I were in Cheltenham where he was giving a talk about his time there as director of Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum. With a bit of a gap before the talk, we dropped into a nearby Lakeland shop and picked up a few useful bits of cooking equipment. (For non UK residents Lakeland is a wonderful shop selling all sorts of kitcheny things. Although growing rapidly – possibly too rapidly – it is still only in major cities and so a bit of a treat for we country dwellers.) I came away with various things but most notably hibiscus flowers in syrup to add to champagne (well probably prosecco at Christmas), little snowflake biscuit cutters and a resin mould for making gingerbread houses.  The other things I have already  forgotten.

Gingerbread houses (using Lakeland's Fairytale Village Mould and recipe)

Gingerbread houses (using Lakeland’s Fairytale Village Mould and recipe)

Gingerbread houses have been on my wish list for many years but I have always cowarded out of making them, suspecting that structurally they would be beyond me. However, as with so many things, a grandchild challenges those areas never explored with their parents. Knitting has been enjoyable, so  perhaps now is the time for a bit culinary engineering – although why my hands reached for  the gingerbread village mould rather than that for a single dwelling, I’m not quite sure but with a Christingle service coming up, they seemed just what I needed.

Snowflake biscuits (Plain biscuit recipe from Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits; Kyle Cathie, 2010)

Snowflake biscuits (Plain biscuit recipe from Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits; Kyle Cathie, 2010)

For the snowflakes I chose a good basic recipe for plain biscuits, taken from Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits by Harriet Hastings & Sarah Moore (Kyle Cathie 2010)

Snowflakes: plain biscuits

350 g plain flour

100 g self raising flour

125 g granulated sugar

125 g salted butter diced and softened (I used unsalted)

125 g golden syrup/treacle (slightly warmed)

1 large egg lightly beaten

Makes about 50 little biscuits of about 4 cm across

Preheat oven to 170°C/160° C for a fan oven/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment

Pour  hot water it into a large bowl and stand the tin of treacle in this so it will pour easily when you need it.

Sift the flours together into a mixing bowl, stir the sugar in. Rub in the butter lightly using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Make a well in the centre and into this pour the egg and the syrup. Mix well drawing in any of the flour left on the sides of the bowl. Stop as soon as a ball has formed.

Put dough on a clean work surface, knead a bit and divide it into 2. Place each half on a piece of cling film  and flatten into a thick disc. Cover over with the cling film and leave for half an hour or so to chill. (Or use immediately.)

Roll one disc at a time out between two sheets of cling film (which means you don’t need to add any more flour) until the thickness you require. Cut out shapes and transfer to prepared baking tray, leaving 2-3 cms between biscuits.

The recipe says bake for 14-18 minutes. My cutters are at most 4 cm across, so I looked at them in the oven after about 10 minutes (when I turned them as my oven cooks unevenly). I took them out after about 12 minutes, just as they were starting to go golden.

Lakeland snowflake cookie cutters

Lakeland snowflake cookie cutters

Leave them for a couple of minutes on the baking tray and then transfer to a wire rack for cooling and now lightly dusted with icing sugar. When fully cooled they can be put in an air tight tin, layered with baking parchment or similar where they will be fine for about a week.

Gingerbread houses (using Lakeland's Fairytle Village Mould and recipe

Gingerbread houses (using Lakeland’s Fairytle Village Mould and recipe

Gingerbread houses

(recipe for Lakeland’s Fairytale village Mould)

90 g unsalted butter

60 g brown sugar

150 g Golden Syrup or treacle

250 g plain flour

1 teasp ground ginger

1/4 teasp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 170°C/160° C for a fan oven/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Melt butter in a large pan over a lowish heat, add sugar and syrup. When sugar is nearly dissolved, remove from heat, stir,  add the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a thick dough. Tip the dough on to a piece of cling film or a floured board (but not too floured or the resulting gingerbread  will become too stiff) and knead it a little to make sure there are no seams of flour running through. Now pinch off pieces and press them into the mould.

Place the moulds on baking trays and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm to touch (turning part the way through it you know your oven to be uneven).

NB I was heavy handed filling the moulds and ended up with insufficient dough for all parts of the final house. Next time I shall be more careful.

Let cool before removing from moulds.

When thoroughly cool begin to assemble using with royal icing or the equivalent as a cement. I used pre-packaged icing as I thought it might all go very wrong at this point. Pipe icing along the base of one side panel and position it on your plate or cake board. You may want to support this with a small glass or something similar but I found it stood quite happily on its own. Now pipe the icing along the base and one side of the front panel and position this against the side panel (see photo, if unclear). Pipe the icing along one side and the base of the other side panel. Position against the front and prop up if needed. (It stood up well on its own for me.) Pipe icing along the base and both sides of the back panel. Position against side panels. At this point there will still be a bit of wiggle room, so square it up and when you’re satisfied, leave it to dry for 20 minutes.

To roof your houses, pipe icing along the underside edges of the roof panels and lay in place. Pipe along the roof ridge. Decorate as the fancy takes you.

The Lakeland pack also contains a recipe to make your own royal icing  and instructions for making a village in chocolate using the moulds.

Fairytale village mould by Lakeland

Fairytale village mould by Lakeland

On this my first time making these houses, I can see I have been too heavy handed with the icing. Fear of collapse made me pipe far too much around the  base where it sat on the plate – even if some of it was slightly hidden by a garden of dolly mixtures. I will do this with more confidence next time and try to make my decoration a bit less messy. I can see me making these little houses again and again in future Christmases. They were very easy, even quick to make and ideal to fit into little hands. For the family we will probably add more ginger.

Little is more pleasurable in life than giving well-behaved children permission to set about the destruction of your gingerbread house. And all my worries about structural instability came to nothing for we were able to lift an entire cottage off the plate and sit it in the palm of a hand.

Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits; Kyle Cathie, 2010)

Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits; Kyle Cathie, 2010)

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  1. Posted December 9, 2015 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    They look lovely. A couple of weeks ago I baked many dozens of chocolate crinkle cookies to add to several kinds of purchased cookies for a large holiday function at my church. I think those beautiful snowflakes will be a great success where ever you take them.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      I’m glad you like the look of the snowflake biscuits. Now Katie, what are chocolate crinkle cookies – they must be good if you made so many?

  2. marge
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Those snowflake biscuits are so pretty, and mini-houses – fabulous. We had a Lakeland in Truro, only a few miles away, but since we moved I haven’t been in one and I do miss it, especially at Christmas.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Yes, Marge, Lakeland is especially enticing at Christmas. So enticing that last week I daren’t even go to the upper floor, having spent enough already.

      • marge
        Posted December 10, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Mary, could I ask, did you chill the snowflake dough before cutting? Whenever I make ‘cut-out’ biscuits they lose some shape and definition in the oven. Yours look perfectly detailed.

        • Mary Addison
          Posted December 10, 2015 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          I did chill the snowflake dough – in fact I made it the previous day. As it was quite hard when it came out of the fridge I put each disc of flattened dough into the microwave for 10 seconds at a time until it felt it was just beginning to soften. The recipe says you can use it straight after making it but I always find an hour’s chilling makes it easier to handle.

          • marge
            Posted December 10, 2015 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

            Thank you

  3. Posted December 9, 2015 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Love your biscuits, very festive! I bought a gingerbread house kit this year, I am just working up the courage to try it!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Just do it! Dreadful we can no longer say these three innocent words without flooding the brain with unwanted associations. I bet even your grown up boys will enjoy picking a gingerbread house even if collapse is imminent. In fact collapse is probably part of the enjoyment.Have fun.

  4. Posted December 9, 2015 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    You obviously suffer from the same complaint as I do – leaping straight to the ambitious project, no matter if the technique is new! However, it turned out really well, so keep leaping!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Yes, hands up to that Rachel. Leap in and read the instructions afterwards. Not always a good idea but difficult to change the habit of a lifetime.

  5. Ann
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and enjoy your recipes. The little snowflakes finally did it for me as they are so beautiful. Can you please translate the G measurement that you use in England for me into cups? Thanks

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 10, 2015 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      Thank you for letting me know you enjoy the biscuit recipes.
      I have had a go at finding the American equivalents for grammes and I have to say it is difficult to be exact.This is what I think:
      butter: just under 3/8 sticks
      sugar: 1/3 cup
      golden syrup: 7/8 cup
      flour: just over 2 cups
      (see blog for other ingredients)
      To be frank this was just a nice simple plain recipe for which I am sure you would find something just as good in your own cookery books. It wasn’t an absolutely luscious recipe that will never be bettered. It’s the snowflake cutters that made them look good.
      Best of luck.

  6. Mildred Clayson
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Mary, your blog is like a breath of fresh air! And I do so love the look of the snowflake biscuits. Did you achieve the look with some snowflake moulds from Lakeland?

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      What a lovely thing to say Mildred – it is much appreciated. Thank you.
      I did indeed use snowflake cutters from Lakeland and I had intended to show them on the post but forgot – I will add a photograph of them in the morning.

  7. Posted December 14, 2015 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    Those cookies look delightful – I especially like the look of the snowflakes. I suspect I’d have (too much) fun let loose inside a Lakeland. Cookware shops are second only to yarn stores in their temptations.

    I was on a Christmas baking tear this morning, and these Candied Ginger Shortbreads made me think of you. I mixed the dough a day ahead, rolled into a cylinder and refrigerated overnight before slicing and baking. Quick and easy, and delicious with a cup of tea!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 14, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Yes, it is easy to spend money in Lakeland – I reach the point where I daren’t even look any further, but must just hurry to buy what’s already in my basket.
      We are thinking along the same lines – yesterday’s biscuits were stem ginger macaroons. Ginger shortbreads sound good too.

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