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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
Put the sugar, syrup, butter and a pinch of salt into a saucepan. Bubble for 1-2 mins, mixing to combine. Set aside to cool a little. Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices in a bowl, add the warm syrup mixture and the egg, and stir to combine (it will feel a little soft now, but will firm up once chilled). Cover the bowl with cling film and chill for 30 mins. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and line 2 baking trays with parchment.
Dust your work surface with a little flour, then roll out the dough to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut out as many men and ladies as you can – you should be able to get about 16 by re-rolling the dough. Place on the trays, then bake for 10-12 mins until slightly risen and golden brown. While they are still warm, push a straw through the top of the gingerbread ladies, and just above where the legs meet on the gingerbread men, to make a hole for stringing up. Cool on a wire rack.
To decorate your snowmen, divide the icing sugar evenly between 2 bowls. Add enough water, a dribble at a time, until you have a very thick but pipeable icing. Add a few drops of brown food colouring to one bowl of icing brown for the reindeer and mix until evenly coloured. Spoon 2 tbsp of the brown icing into another bowl, then colour black using the black food colouring.
Transfer roughly half the white icing to a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. Pipe the outline of a snowman onto the gingerbread lady biscuits, piping a little circle around the hole at the top too. Leave to set for 5 mins. Squeeze any leftover icing back into the bowl with the remaining white icing and add a little more water, a splash at a time, until runny but still fairly thick. Transfer back to the piping bag. When the snowman outlines are dry to the touch, pipe enough icing onto the biscuits to flood the surface. Tease the icing into all corners using a cocktail stick.
Use half an orange jelly bean for the snowman’s nose and silver balls for the buttons. Transfer the brown and black icings to piping bags fitted with small nozzles (or snip off the corner of a sandwich bag), and pipe on brown twigs for arms and black dots as coal for eyes and a mouth. Finally, sprinkle the base of each snowman with a little edible glitter. Leave to dry for at least 2 hrs.
To decorate your reindeer, draw a reindeer outline on each gingerbread man biscuit using the brown icing (just as you did with the snowmen) – turn them upside down first so you can use the legs as the reindeer’s antlers. Leave to dry while you loosen the brown icing, as before.
Fill each reindeer with the runnier brown icing, being careful not to make the antlers too thick. Tease into the spaces using a cocktail stick. Sprinkle each antler with brown sugar and flick off any excess with the cocktail stick. Stick a red ball or Smartie on each biscuit for a nose, and 2 white chocolate chips for eyes. Use a little black icing to draw a pupil on each eye. Leave to dry for at least 2 hrs.
When the biscuits are completely dry, thread and tie through a piece of string and hang. Eat the biscuits within 2 weeks.