Decorate your gingerbread cookies this year
Decorating is the new baking for a stress-free holiday season
Opplysningskontoret for brød og korn / NTB
Norwegians love gingerbread, and new research shows that just as many buy gingerbread in the shop as those who bake it. Here are seven simple tips for the gingerbread decoration for a professional result.
For Norwegians, gingerbread and Christmas are almost two sides of the same coin. That was revealed in a recent survey carried out by YouGov for MatPrat and the Information Office for Bread and Grain, where more than 2,000 Norwegians were asked about their Christmas habits.
Gingerbread holds a special position when it comes to Norwegians’ Christmas preparations. Gingerbread is among our Christmas cookie favorites, and our survey shows that it is just as common to buy ready-made cookies in the shop as it is to bake you own.
A third of us do not bake the gingerbread at home. We choose to spend our time decorating.
“I understand well that decorating is the new baking. Decorating is fun, creates less chaos than baking and everyone thinks it’s nice to de-stress and decorate exactly as you want, says Torunn Nordbø, general manager at Opplysningskontoret for brød og korn (Information Office for Bread and Cereals).
While one in four says that baking Christmas cookies with the family is one of the things they look forward to most in the countdown to Christmas, almost half say that they look forward to Christmas decorating and other traditions.
“Many people feel that the time leading up to Christmas passes quickly and is full of stress. Being able to sit down to Christmas music and decorate gingerbread is something that can slow down your pulse and give you some Christmas peace, says Anette Fjelleng Hansen, a food adviser for MatPrat.
Nordbø and Hansen agree that one of the most important things to enjoy the pre-Christmas activities is to set ambitions at the right level.
They have therefore put together a list of seven tips for decorating gingerbread.
Tip 1: Take shortcuts where you can
There is no gingerbread police: there is no shame in decorating ready-made gingerbread or buying a ready-made dough. Less time for baking means more time for decorating!
“If you choose to go for the solution of baking the gingerbread yourself with little helpers in the kitchen, it is wise not to fill all the cookie tins at once. Instead, have the gingerbread dough ready in the fridge. Then you can bake a couple of trays when you have an hour or two with the children in the evening and do the decorating another day,” says Nordbø.
Tip 2: Choose the right glaze for the decoration
Icing made from icing sugar and water works well for decorating gingerbread cookies. If you are going to make gingerbread houses or want a fixing compound that hardens, Hansen recommends a slightly more advanced recipe for powdered sugar icing, also called royal icing. It consists of whipped egg whites, icing sugar and lemon juice. [Many recipes are available on the internet.]
“Hold a few drops of the glaze between your thumb and forefinger and pull it apart. It should have the consistency of thin chewing gum; then it is easiest to pipe out,” says Hansen.
Tip 3: Less mess and nicer decor with a closed pastry bag
There are different solutions for piping bags for the powdered sugar icing. One of the simplest is to use an ordinary bread bag in which you cut holes.
To get elasticity in the piping bag, it must be closed at the top, preferably with an elastic band. With a little practice, you can also wrap the top of the bag around your thumb in a “lock,” so that you always have pressure when piping the icing.
“When you have to cut holes in the bag, cut them smaller than you might think. It can happen fast that the hole becomes too large and that a lot of glaze flows out. Then it is difficult to decorate beautifully and accurately,” says Hansen.
Tip 4: Make holes in freshly baked gingerbread
If you want to use the gingerbread to decorate the Christmas tree or as gift tags on the packages, it’s a good idea to make holes in them while the cookies are still soft.
Tip 5: Decorate before you bake
You don’t have to wait until the gingerbread is baked before decorating.
“If you sprinkle some cake decorations on unbaked cakes, they will come fully decorated straight out of the oven,” says Nordbø.
Tip 6: Make Christmas trees with a brush and icing sugar
Here is a fun decoration tip with a simple procedure and a professional result for gingerbread shaped like trees. Use a clean paintbrush to draw the glaze outward. Then hold the gingerbread tree upright and sift powdered sugar over it. Then the powdered sugar will settle like snow on the trees.
Tip 7: Make a decorative Christmas wreath from gingerbread
If you are ready for a real challenge, you can make your very own special Christmas wreath of gingerbread stars. Here, a separately fried, round gingerbread is used at the bottom, and large straight stars in the bottom layer. It is then filled with gingerbread stars of various sizes. To give an overall impression, some of the stars are decorated with the same pattern.
“Use a silicone mat as a base when you roll out and bake the gingerbread—it provides a more solid foundation so that they do not lose their shape so easily when you move them. To prevent the gingerbread from rising too much in the oven, you can put them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking,” says Nordbø.
Looking for other ways to simply your Christmas baking? Editor-in-chief Lori Ann Reinhall shares one recipe that can be modified into seven kinds of cookies.