I can't take credit for these designs as I was inspired by what I saw here. I only made slight modifications to the original design.
The recipe is almost the same as my brown sugar cookies except that ground ginger is added.
87g plain flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger (you may replace some of it with cinnamon and/or allspice)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
28g unsalted butter (cool but softened)
37g light brown sugar
1 tbs golden syrup
1/4 egg (about 12g)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
70g icing sugar*
5g meringue powder
2 tbs water*
Gel food coloring
* Use more as necessary to get the right flooding consistency (like thickened cream. Peaks in the icing should disappear after 10 seconds). Only the icing for the hay should be able to hold peaks.
1. Sift together the first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in the brown sugar.
2. In a small bowl, mix together golden syrup, egg and vanilla extract. Add this to the mixture in step 1. Mix together until a dough forms.
3. Roll the dough between baking sheets until thickness of about 5-6mm. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Cut out the cookies using cookie cutters.
As I don't have a bean shaped cutter for baby Jesus, I made a template from baking sheet and cut using a small knife.
4. Place the cut-outs about 1" apart on a baking tray lined with baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 180°C for 8-10 minutes or until browned.
Leave on the tray to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool. Store in air tight container when completely cooled. These cookies can keep for a few weeks.
5. Prepare the royal icing. Sift icing sugar and meringue powder together. Gradually add water and whisk until you get the right flooding consistency. I whisked using a hand whisk this time although I normally use the electric mixer. Do take a few minutes to whisk vigorously if you are doing it by hand. This ensures that the icing does not separate when drying on the cookies. Add some sifted icing sugar to thicken the consistency of the icing for the hay.
6. Divide into the various colours. I used ziplock bags as piping bags without piping tips as icing quantity is small. Fitting on piping tips would waste a lot of icing. Just snip off a corner. Be sure to clean the tip often with damp paper towel as the icing may clog up the small opening. Make sure that the icing is dry before adding on another layer where there is layering involved. Here's a picture summary of how I iced the cookies:
Baby Jesus in a manger :)
Star that led the wise men to Jesus :)
Snowflakes...not in the nativity scene I think :p
Pardon the poor photo quality as I did these in a hurry and at night. I sped up the drying process by placing iced cookies in the oven at 70°C with the fan mode on. Make sure that the cookies are cooled before storing in air tight container again.
Do take time to contemplate the true meaning of Christmas :). It's God's way of showing His love for us.
Update: Check out my later post on how to make some of the other characters in the nativity scene ;).