Gingerbread advent calendar
I was commissioned by the Telegraph newspaper to create an edible calendar and enjoyed it so much it's set to become a future family tradition.
To hang the biscuits, I made a simple twig tree using a few willow canes from the garden centre, which I cut to size and tied together with twine. The end result is a little wobbly (wood glue might have been a good idea) but once decorated with a string of fairy lights and a few acorns and pinecones collected by the kids, looks quite festive and has a certain homespun charm.
Photographs by wonderful Clara Molden
Prepare: 30 minutes plus decorating time
Cook: 30 minutes Makes 25
125g butter or dairy-free alternative
100g dark brown muscovado sugar
60g golden syrup
325g plain flour, plus a little extra for rolling
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
500g pack of fondant
Red food colouring and sprinkles
Preheat the oven to 170°C, gas mark 3. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a saucepan.
Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon in a large bowl with a large pinch of salt. Add the warm melted mixture and bring together to make a stiff dough.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm. Cut out a variety of shapes, remembering a star for the top of the tree. Make holes for hanging.
Re-roll any trimmings - the dough is easy to handle when a little warm so give the trimmings a few seconds in the microwave if the dough starts to crumble and you’ll find it comes together beautifully again.
Place the biscuits on lined baking trays and bake for 8 - 10 minutes until golden. Leave to cool before decorating and hanging.
I found a metal straw to be the best device for making holes for hanging. the mixture keeps its shape well so they won't close up during baking.
A 500g pack of white fondant icing will easily be enough for 25 biscuits; I added red food colouring to a third of mine. Coloured icing is also easy to find but about twice the price.
Leave the icing to set for a couple of hours, or overnight before hanging the biscuits so the decoration doesn’t get damaged.
If you don’t have a very large enough star cutter for the top of the tree, just draw one and cut it out to make a template. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect.
Cooking twine is a good, cheap alternative to ribbon.
Wobbly branches can be counterbalanced brilliantly with candy canes.
If you don’t fancy making your own twig tree, try stringing the biscuits along lengths of ribbon.
If you’re short on time, after-dinner mints, chocolate fondants or lebkuchen are all good for icing on to. Foil-wrapped chocolate reindeers, santas and coins or colourful wrapped sweets numbered with a white or metallic marker, also look jolly.