Sunday, 17 June 2007

Gingerbread Men and Women (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

The first time I visited Tiananmen Square, I was intrigued by a huge digital clock off to one side, counting down in seconds. It was clearly counting down to an event many seconds into the future. It turned out to be counting down to the handover of Hong Kong back to the Mainland. Don’t worry, I am not going to debate the politics of British Colonial Rule, or whether Hong Kong has fared better under Chinese Rule. That’s far too much of a gluten-free hot potato.

The reason I thought of that great big digital clock with its red numbers, is that in the last few weeks I have seen another one. Every time I close my eyes, there’s a great mass of numbers counting down in seconds to a time in the not-too-distant future.

The summer holidays begin in 1,641,600 seconds. Or thereabouts. Now I do look forward to the holidays. I am so tired at the moment that the thought of not having to set an alarm for 0630 hours every day almost makes me cry with happiness. Yet I also know how badly the days can go with four young children, no outside help, and long, long hours to fill. I may not set MY alarm for 0630 hours, but the crazy alarm in my children’s heads goes off all the same.

I do have a few coping strategies to help me along; I have arranged a 10 day trip to the UK, and I am busy arranging lots of other people’s social lives, persuading them that they really do fancy paying me a visit. Nevertheless, there will be lots of days when it’s all down to Mummy. I have observed that my children’s mood is directly linked to my own. On the days when they are crabby, miserable and sad, it is generally because I am feeling the same way. Conversely, when Mummy is up, everyone is happy. It’s such a responsibility, I really feel the role of Mummy should come with some government hand-outs, some rock hard cash incentives.

I digress. I have come up with a plan for filling at least one day of the hols. Making Gingerbread Men. My kids love to bake, and Gingerbread Men are very good value. Lots of rolling, cutting, pretty shapes, squidging and mess. I gave these Gingerbread Men a trial run last week. My boy had a friend to play and I rolled out the Gingerbread dough. It was a success. They were happily occupied for the best part of oh, 20 minutes, and they made some lovely biscuits.

In the calm of the weekend I had a very therapeutic time painting my newfound friends with melted chocolate. My children wanted to help with the chocolate painting, but I said no, painted their lips with molten chocolate and then they ran off in a cocoa-fuelled frenzy and left me in peace.
I silently thanked my gingerbread mates for the help they had already given me, and for their help which is to come. I told them I looked forward to seeing them again in, oh about 1 million six hundred and forty one thousand, four hundred and twenty seconds.
Gingerbread Mates (Click here for tips on how to avoid cross-contamination)
If you can eat eggs but not gluten, just substitute the 'no egg' for a real egg. You may find you have to add more flour to compensate. Add it tbsp by tbsp until you get a workable dough. If you can tolerate gluten, you can make this recipe with wheat flour. Use 350g plain white flour, but you won't need the xanthan gum.
225 g rice flour (here's one) + extra for rolling out
125g Gram flour (aka chickpea or besan flour) (here's one)
1 tsp xanthan gum (here's one)
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g dairy free spread (here's one)
175g sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
175g golden syrup
1 'no-egg' egg replacer mixed up with rice milk
About 50g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids (gluten-free, dairy-free, here's one)
Although dark chocolate contains soya lecithin, my daughter could tolerate it when she was intolerant of soya. However, do check with your doctor/dietician if you are unsure
  • Heat the oven to 190 degrees C, (Gas mark 5, 375F)
  • Put the flours, xanthan gum, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and mix together
  • Add the dairy-free spread and rub it into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
  • Stir in the sugar
  • Mix the syrup with the 'no-egg' and add it to the mixing bowl
  • Squidge it all together to make a dough. You may find that the dough is too wet and sticky, in which case, add some more rice flour, tbsp by tbsp. You need a dough that is not sticky, but not too dry either
  • Roll out the dough on a rice-floured surface to a thickness of about 5mm. If you like your gingerbread people really crunchy, then you might want to go to 3mm. I like mine quite soft and thick (so like me), they are better for dunking in your tea. Also, because of the addition of xanthan gum, I'm not sure you'll get a really crunchy clever friend Jo says that you need butter for the crunch, so if you can tolerate butter, try using that
  • Have lots of fun cutting out your people, don't be bound by convention, make gingerbread stars or hearts or any other cutting shape you have to hand!
  • Bake in the oven for about 12-15 mins...but do hover nearby and keep checking, they can brown really quickly
  • When they are golden brown (or deeply tanned like my friends on the right of the photo, I took my eye off the oven...), remove them from the oven and leave them to cool
  • When they are completely cool, shoo the kids away and melt the dark chocolate in the microwave (in a heatproof bowl) or very gently in a saucepan
  • Take a clean paintbrush and bring your creations to life by daubing them with melted choc. You have the power to give life, it is a wonderful thing. Please make sure that you spoon any remaining melted chocolate into your mouth. Then smile at yourself in the mirror
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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Drunk Mummy said...

I love the 'designer collection' modelled by your gingerbread people. It looks like they are in a fashion show (where is the bridal gown?)

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Damn, I missed a trick, a bridal gown would have been fab! Next time...

Pipany said...

Hello there. Thanks for the ccomments on my blog (can't call you pig as it sounds like I'm being rude! Any ideas?). I have got five children (aged 24, 20, 17, 9 & 1yrs) and two step-children (18 & 11), four ducks, five hens (though I am sooo eating one if she doesn't stop annoying me!) and a few cats. Oh, and Dave, my partner, of course. Think I might wait and think about posting that 'difficult' blog - needs some real thought about the openess of the site. Look forward to reading more of your blogs xx

debio said...

But isn't it so difficult always to be 'up' just for the children - sometimes I feel like a court jester or a morris dancer; my daughter is old enough now to look at me as if her mother is on speed. So this holiday I shall just be myself; going to be a long 9 weeks!

lady macleod said...

brilliant idea! If it is a cranky day you can play pirates and have them do galley duty with all the pans.

Lee said...

Mmmm.... they look absolutely lovely!

Urm. Though I may just skip to the parts that say:

"melt the dark chocolate"

"Please make sure that you spoon any remaining melted chocolate into your mouth. Then smile at yourself in the mirror"

Frog in the Field said...

Dear PITK,
Thanks for the countdown to the summer holidays! I'm dreading them already, they seem to cost more than the school fees!
I always like to get my girls cooking, they think it's fab to create a whole meal, but like baking cakes and biscuits best (of course)
We very often walk across the farm taking food with us. We'll find some wood, light a fire and cook supper. It's great fun, and of course I can walk off the calories coming back up to our house!

Suffolkmum said...

Know what you mean about children picking up on your moods - it happens too often for comfort in this house. I always feel like I'm having a little luxury break when I read your blogs and drool! Will make these too. Am forever hopelessly behind with blogs, but I do get there in the end, I'm still reading!

muddyboots said...

lovely gingerbread people. nothing worse than early morning start for school.

mutterings and meanderings said...

They are just the best gingerbread folk I have ever seen.

You seriously need to find a publisher Pig. This stuff is great.

Stay at home dad said...

Pig (it's ok Pipany), a great summer idea. I feel sure I can make this last a couple of hours. I have been wondering exactly how my first 9 week break will unfold.

And I say again, don't know how you do it. And your hubbie still gets Father's Day off!

Brom said...

Kept them quite for, oh, 20 minutes - I knew that feeling, it gets better, honest.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Pipany, hello and welcome. Have no qualms about calling me pig, but please don't preface it with 'fat' or 'smelly'. 7 children in your life and feathery and fluffy animals...and a partner. Wow. Respec'. Do drop by again!

Debio, i only do the 'up' bit if i genuinely feel like 'up', i find the 'i'm being very patient and tolerant, but i'm about to blow my stack' routine far more taxing! I join you in the pledge to be myself this summer...I hope the kids like what they find.

Lady M, thank-you for the creative pirate twist that will ensure they clean up too...such a wise woman.

Hello Lee, you are right. I will sack the gingerbread bit, put the telly on, sit on the kitchen floor and spoon molten chocolate into my mouth. For 9 weeks. Then i really will be a pig in the kitchen.

FITF, please may i come and play at your house this summer? It sounds like there's enough space to actually lose a few children for a while! I may give the fire thing a whirl, that sounds fun!

Suffolk Mum, I have been in denial for a while about the effect my mood has on the family, but alas it appears to be true. Thank-you for kind words about blog! Keeping up with blogs is almost a full-time job, oooo I could employ my eldest to read them for me this summer!

Muddyboots, the early starts are a killer, will be very happy to kiss them goodbye for a while!

M&M, thank-you, you are v. sweet. A publisher would be lovely, when you have your column in the Guardian, will you put in a good word for me?!

SAHD, give them a whirl, your girlie will love you for it! And as there are no school runs, you can drink beer all the while! Now that's how your first 9 week stint could a very drunken manner. Can you get done for being drunk in charge of a Prius? It's almost like a bike isn't it?! And don't you worry, for every husbandly weekend jolly, there is a reciprocal wifely jolly, it's 2-nil at the moment, I shall be booking my breaks away as of the Autumn, hurrah!

Brom, thanks for reassurance...I am hanging out for the day that they all sleep in until midday, why would I ever wake them?!

Lizzie said...

Pig, I do so agree with m&m, as you know! You really should be 'discovered'. You are so good at - well, everything that you are doing! I wish I was your agent - (plus m&m's), then I could afford to retire!

Lizzie x

Jess Poskozim said...

Hmmm... so when I'm panicky about getting out of the house on time and my children choose exactly that time to refuse to put on their shoes and instead hide behind the chairs, they are in fact, mirroring my mood. Oh what a horrible cycle that is! Thank you for pointing out this completely obvious fact - I'm somewhat new to the mothering game. My oldest is 2 1/2 and a natural at the "Hide from Momma" game.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Lizzie, you are so sweet! You can be my agent anytime:-) Not sure you'd retire on the proceeds tho...

Jess, hello, I am not a child psychiatrist, but it is what I have observed! But you shouldn't underestimate the conniving powers of a two year old either, so it might not all be down to you! Hiding from Mummy is awful, my second darling did it so well once at a friend's house, the Dad turned up at my house asking if my girlie was can imagine the paeodophile scenario i invented in a nannosecond can't you? Shudder!

Lowood6 said...

Hi again - doing the VERY last minhte baking still ;-) Baked the gingerbread men last night and they are, again, fantastic! My husband who is really into gingerbread was so impressed, he thinks you should go into commercial production...
I can't wait to bake your mince pie recipe - um, well, tonight... (Hope all is going well with your family this year for Christmas!)
Merry Christmas and thanks so much!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

lowood6, your husband sounds like such a lovely man! Good luck with the mince pies, and have a fab christmas...hope your kids don't get up too early!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this recipe. I've tried so many that just didn't work gluten free (and egg-free). This recipe makes great gingerbread men - and they taste even better the next day.
One thing - I found that 8 min at 180C was perfect baking time for me, I rolled about 3mm thick. The first tray baked for 9min at 190C and were verging on burnt.

Janine said...

Oh Pig, How much do I LOVE YOU!!!!

The cookies turned out beautiful and everyone loves them. Perfect recipe and fun to work with a dough that behaves like a regular dough, ykwim.

I'm sure this will be my regular biscuit recipe :) with or without ginger added.

Flo'bear said...

Had to let you know my daughter is OBSESSED with these. She's forcing me to make them again this afternoon. They're actually what I bribe her with - if you stay in your bed all night long/finish your lunch/tidy up your toys then we can make gingerbread men tomorrow.

Although I've left it too late for the Parkin :(