OF COURSE I've made something out of gingerbread this Christmas. I am rather fond of making stuff out of biscuits, from gingerbread mug houses to a TARDIS, and now I've moved on to Christmas trees. It was a natural progression.
This is really just a heap of star biscuits, stacked one on top of the other. You can buy a kit from Lakeland, but that's not at all necessary if you already own a few star-shaped cutters in varying sizes. I own a whole galaxy of cutters, so I was ready for business.
Just remember, please, to cut TWO of each size, otherwise you'll have a very squat tree. And you'll need three of the smallest size, so that you can have a star at the very top.
3D Gingerbread Christmas Tree (makes one large Christmas tree or umpteen little Christmas trees), plus extra for a batch of star-shaped biscuits
You will need:
- 300g unsalted butter
- 225g golden syrup
- 125g golden caster sugar
- 125g dark muscovado sugar
- 725g plain flour
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 4 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 500g royal icing sugar
- 4-5 tbsp cold water
- Green food colouring
- Gold edible glitter
- Decorations - silver balls, coloured chocolate crispy pieces, WHATEVER.
- Star-shaped cookie cutters in a variety of graduated sizes - I used 10 different sizes, ranging from 3cm to 20cm in width. If you want mini-trees, I'd say a minimum of 5 cutters is required.
- Piping bags, medium-sized star nozzle and smallish round nozzle.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line four baking trays with parchment.
- In a large saucepan, gently heat the butter, golden syrup, golden caster sugar and muscovado sugar until melted.
- Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter/sugar mix and stir well until you have a sturdy dough.
- Leave to firm up for a couple of minutes, then dust a work surface with a little flour and roll the dough out to 3-4mm thick. Cut your star shapes - remembering to cut TWO OF EACH SIZE, plus THREE of the smallest star - and transfer to the parchment. Sometimes I just cut my shapes directly on the parchment, because I'm not brilliant at moving uncooked dough in precise shapes - not if I want them to remain a precise shape, that is. You know your own skill level. Act accordingly.
- Place all the baking sheets in the fridge, so the dough shapes can chill for half an hour.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 10-13 minutes. You'll probably need to bake in batches, unless your oven is huge, but don't worry too much about some biscuits being darker than others. Once the icing is done, no-one will notice.
- Leave the biscuits to cool on a wire rack, while you get on with making up the icing. Simply combine the royal icing sugar with the water, and beat in a mixer (on a low speed) for about 5 minutes. If you're mixing by hand, expect about 10-15 minutes of hard graft. The icing will form peaks once it's ready.
- Colour about two-thirds of the icing green (build up the colour slowly - you can add, but you can't take away!). Leave the rest white.
- Once the biscuits are cool, start assembling your tree! Position one of the biggest stars at the base, and add a dollop of white icing in the centre to glue the corresponding size of star atop it. Alternate the direction of the star points to mimic the branches of a tree. Continue up, adding icing between each layer, using ever-decreasing star sizes. Check your tree is still straight as you progress.
- At the very top, finish with two of the small stars. The third will be your star decoration - don't put this in place yet!
- Using a piping bag with a star nozzle, make branches with the green icing. This is easy and quick and requires absolutely no icing skills. Simply squeeze and pull, all around the tree. Some layers will have space for lots of branches, some won't. Freestyle! Add blobs of snow using white icing and a round nozzle tip.
- Decorate with silver or coloured balls while the icing is still soft. Ice your decorative tree-top star with white icing, sprinkle with glitter and edge with balls if you like. Once it's dry - and the branches at the top of the tree are feeling firm - position using a blob of green icing. Remember to have it facing the same way as the best side of your tree (although you could decorate both sides of the star if you really want).
- If you've made a batch of extra star biscuits with the remaining dough, there will be enough icing left over to ice them, although I just sprinkled mine with a bit of glitter (not pictured, because HUNGER).
- Sit back and admire your handiwork. Then DEMOLISH!