Here we are, today is the beloved or dreaded Christmas Eve, a day about preparations: clean up house, cooking (I have to make coniglio al civet -a rabbit stew- and bread for tomorrow's lunch), wrap the last gifts and, in my case, pack the edible gifts (so that they don't lose their fragrance, hopefully). I know that I skimped on: I didn't write about a lot of recipes for home-made gifts, but I didn't want to ruin the surprise to my closest friends.
But today I can at least reveal the first secret of Fatima, about my sweet and cute Gingerbread men, that remind me of the one from the movie Shrek. Of course, this isn't an Italian sweet, but I like these spicy cookies so much, and I find that they smell like winter, like homely warmth, like Christmas. Also, once you've decorated them (although I did a very simple decoration) with glaze, they'll become very cute and nice: they can almost talk!
(recipe from Giallo Zafferano)
Ingredients (about 120 little men)
For the dough
* 350 g plain flour
* 160 g sugar
* a pinch of salt
* a level teaspoon of baking soda
* 2 level teaspoons of powdered cinnamon
* 1/2 of powdered cloves
* 1/4 teaspoon powdered nutmeg
* 2 level teaspoons of powdered ginger
* 150 g unsalted butter
* 150 g honey
* an egg
For the glaze (optional)
* an egg white
* 200 g powdered sugar
* a few lemon drops
* food colors (optional)
Sift the flour and place it in the mixer bowl; add sugar, spices (I replaced them with a mix of spices for Greek pastries, and then I added more ginger), baking soda and cold butter, cut into cubes. Then add the honey and blend until you have a crumby mix; add the egg and blend again for a moment, until you've got a ball of dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and put it to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 356° F (180° C).
After this rest, roll out the dough on a floured surface with a rolling pin into a very thin sheet (2-3 mm). Cut your cookies in the desired shapes (I chose a little man), put the cookies on a nonstick baking pan (or a normal baking pan lined with parchment paper) and bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Watch your cookies: they should be golden, not brown.
Let them cool on a wire rack and, when they're cold, you can decide whether to decorate them or not. I made a simple glaze: I beat the egg white until stiff, then I added the powdered sugar and a few lemon drops. Then I divided the glaze into three parts, I left one white, while I added some food colors to the other two (I made a pink one and a light green one) and then I made a simple decoration (eyes, mouth and three buttons) with a syringe on my men, so that they became similar to the traditional gingerbread men (although they were a little more basic than the one from Shrek).
Store them in a tin box and, when (and if) you want to give them away, place them standing in transparent bags, like a small army of gingerbread men.. they're so cute!!
I wish you have a merry Christmas Eve, that many of you (myself included) will spend in the kitchen and around a table. See you tomorrow for my "final" wishes… but there's someone who wants to wish you Merry Christmas.