Christmas is a time to remember God's love for us through the birth of Jesus :). Joseph, Mary and the shepherds were there to witness this joyful event. Here's my simple Nativity scene created from gingerbread cookies!
There are more elaborate cookie Nativity scenes out there including angels, the stable and wise men (although technically the wise men met Jesus much later). But I have over a hundred star, snowflake and baby Jesus cookies to bake and ice so I decided not to be too ambitious and just choose a few characters. It's been a hectic time for me with lots of requests for christmas bakes and will continue to be so until Christmas. Praying that I can have time to reflect and not be swamped by all the busyness :).
The recipe for gingerbread cookies is the same as my previous bake, except that I used 5 times the quantity. I don't have any sheep or people cookie cutters so I made a template out of plastic sheet and cut the dough using that and a knife.
435g plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp allspice powder
1.25 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
140g unsalted butter (cool but softened)
185g light brown sugar
5 tbs golden syrup
1 large egg (about 60-65g)
2.5 tsp vanilla extract
210g icing sugar*
15g meringue powder
6 tbs water*
Gel food coloring
Cocoa powder (for colouring brown)
* 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 or template and 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.
Here's a picture summary for the steps to ice the various characters. I got my inspiration for them from here. You may refer to my previous gingerbread cookie post for steps on how to ice baby Jesus. I copied the design from here for baby Jesus cookie.
1. Ice the faces of the people. On a separate baking sheet, ice the staff of the shepherd and leave to dry.
2. Ice the hair, beard and clothes that are of the same shade of brown. Ice the sheep body.
3. Ice the light blue part on Mary and light brown part on Joseph and the shepherd.
4. Ice the sheep's head and one leg, and the part of the shepherd's clothes that is grey.
5. Ice the rest of Joseph and Mary's clothes. Ice the other leg of the sheep when the previous one is dry.
6. Ice the wool on the sheep's head and whites of the eyes.
7. Draw in the eyes and sheep nostrils using cocoa powder or charcoal powder dissolved in water with a toothpick.
8. Place the staff on the shepherd. Ice the hands of the people. The icing should be able to hold the staff in place.
Finally all done! And this is only about a third of the cookies
Whenever you are icing over a layer of icing, just make sure that the bottom layer is dry. You may dry the cookies in the oven with fan mode on at 70-80°C to speed up the process.
Pretty snowflake close-up!
It was satisfying to see all the cookies completed much as it was really tiring :).
I am submitting this to "My Treasured Recipes #4 - Ho Ho Ho It's Christmas (Dec 2014)" hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.