Ah gingerbread biscuits! It’s really an emblematic sweet treat of Christmas in Alsace! As soon as we bake some, the whole house smells great, of honey and spices (especially cinnamon), like the scent of Holidays! You can choose to do a large gingerbread or small decorated gingerbread biscuits. These small biscuits are traditional in the region (you’ll see some on all the Christmas markets or by visiting the two gingerbread makers in Gertwiller), and it was customary in the past to give gingerbread biscuits to people, including to your loved one…
The toughest thing to do will probably be to choose the cookie-cutter that you will use. I would recommend choosing simple shapes: stars or hearts for example. The icing is also a bit technical, but don’t worry, you’ll just need a bit of patience and imagination for the patterns. Once again, just choose something simple: dots or mini arabesques… Stay very close to the gingerbread with the piping bag, so that the icing will “stick” and that’s all there is to it!
Tips and trick: to spread the gingerbread biscuits in a regular manner and with the right thickness, you can buy in an hardware shop, a wooden stick of 1cm on the side. Cut it out in two pieces of a 30-cm length. Place these two sticks on each side of the dough and use your rolling pin by leaning on the sticks. That’s how you will get an evenly-spread dough.
Gingerbread biscuits are even better 48h afterwards: they will have time to become a bit more « spongy ». They can be kept safely in a metal box for 1 month.
Ingredients for about twenty small Alsatian gingerbread biscuits (depending on the size of the cookie cutters)
- 500g flour
- 1 sachet of baking powder
- 200g sugar
- 250g acacia honey or from any other flower
- 1 tablespoon of cinnamon powder
- 1/8 teaspoon of clove powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of aniseed powder
- 1 pinch of nutmeg ground or in powder
- 10cl water
- 150g icing sugar
- 1 egg white
- Cookie cutters
In a small bowl, mix together all the spices (cinnamon, aniseed, clove, nutmeg). If you don’t have clove powder, use 2 whole cloves and put them in a mixer with the other spices.
Pour the spices in the bowl of your food processor or in a large bowl. Add the flour, the baking powder and the sugar. Mix again.
Add the honey. It has to be liquid: if it’s a bit hard, put it 30 seconds in the micro-wave.
Mix the dough with your hands or with the food processor sheet. Add half of the water.
Keep on kneading. The dough might seem a bit dry at first, but you’ll have to keep kneading without adding the remainder of the water.
After a few minutes, add the remainder of the water, if necessary. The dough shouldn’t be sticky. If that’s the case, add a bit of flour.
Shape a ball with the dough and wrap it in plastic film. Let it rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature. This resting time will also allow for the dough to develop all of its flavours.
Preheat the oven at 180°C. Spread the dough with a rolling pin over a thickness of 1 cm (see the trick above), without forgetting to flour the work plan. Cut out the shapes with the cookie cutter. It might seem thick, but it’s how you’ll be able to keep the gingerbread biscuits soft; if they are too fine, they’ll become too dry after baking.
Arrange the gingerbread biscuits on a tray covered with greaseproof paper, spacing them out properly, as they will inflate a little bit with baking. Put in the oven for about 15 minutes.
For the first batch, check the baking in order to find the ideal time, as gingerbread biscuits should barely get tinged. Don’t bake them for too long, or they will become hard once they cool down!
Let the biscuits cool on a shelf.
Prepare the icing by mixing icing sugar and the egg white. Whisk the mixture with an electric whisk, until you get a smooth, shiny and very white cream. Decorate the biscuits with the help of a piping bag.
Pictures of the decorated Alsatian gingerbread biscuits