1 December 2013

Advent 2013

Well, here we are once more in December. This year I'd not made any particular plans, but I did have a list of ideas to try out.

I made a batch of my standard ginger snap dough and a batch of the punishments dough. They were left in the fridge for 48 hours, since I'm now well into my second week of plaster chipping and made a push to get that job finished. Let's just say that today I wasn't quite sure if I'd be able to bake and I didn't get started until after lunch.


My first idea is actually nothing original - the brand Anna's ginger snaps/thins now come in a variety of flavours and I thought orange and chilli would be good to add. So, after mixing the ginger snap dough, I took out two lumps, about the size of an orange each and added 0.5 tsp of orange essence to one and 0.75 tsp of hot chilli powder to the other one, stirred in and put in the fridge next to the big bag of "regular" ginger snap dough.


My second idea was inspired from this year's Danish Bake-off, "Den Store Bagedyst" (in Danish). Here, during the crisp bread stage, one of the contestants cut the dough into strips and weaved it, before cutting into rectangles and baking. I thought this was a brilliant, if massively fiddly, idea. But how to give it a Christmassy twist? Well, there's the Scandinavian tradition of woven paper hearts... And that's what I decided to do. Comparing the ginger snap recipe with the one for the French punishment biscuits, I noticed that they bake at almost the same temperature and for a similar amount of time, so this would be perfect to get the colour contrast.


The first thing to do for the woven hearts is a template. For a woven heart, the top rounded bit is half a circle. Then there's the straight part, which is cut up into strips, that should be the same length as the diameter of the circle. I decided a 7 cm diameter would be good and 4 strips would be best. So I rolled out a piece of the light dough and cut out five pieces according to the templates. All I can say is that it's a right old hassle. Then I repeated with the dark dough, which turned out even flimsier than the light dough and kept catching on the knife. Maybe I should have washed it between cuts, I don't know.


After the first heart was woven, with quite a few breaks, I tried using a couple of knife handles, this helped significantly, but still I had to add bits to the end of the strips, they were too short. I guess, I need to go back to the drawing board and account for this in my next template. I'm also seriously tempted to look for someone who can make a cookie cutter for this purpose, otherwise the whole process takes forever. I almost lost patience after the second heart already!


And I discovered the problem with the woven ginger snap hearts - the woven part is twice the thickness of the rounded bits, so that it needed quite a bit longer to bake. I had to go mid-way to get the woven part sort of baked through, while not burning the thinner, rounded bits too badly. So another exercise for the drawing board. The lack of gluten is an issue as well. Perhaps it would be worth doing in two parts - the woven bit and then thicker rounded bits and then somehow stick them together, perhaps. Will be easier to weave for sure.

An additional bonus was that I got to try out two new cookie cutters. I got them from my Sister Bip last Christmas - a puzzle piece and a miniature house. A couple of years ago, I spotted these on the internet and thought this would be a good opportunity to try out. Well, not to make the entire houses, that seems way too fiddly, but perhaps to be able to hang a biscuit on the rim of the mug... So I cut out a piece of the house shaped cookies for this purpose. As it turned out, the piece was too shallow and wide, so not working at all as I'd thought. Looking at the website from where I got the inspiration, the very fact that it is a 3D-cookie makes it possible to hang on the rim of a cup. Way too wobbly when in 2D. Oh well, maybe I can experiment with the weight distribution or something.

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