Gingerbread stars are great to make at Christmas time - you can use them as gifts, or as homemade decorations for the tree. If you have bought a Dinner Ladies gingerbread kit, ignore everything until "Now roll out your dough..."
350g plain flour
Half a teaspoon bicarb of soda
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
130g butter, cut into cubes
150g caster sugar
1 tablespoons golden syrup
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
500g pure icing sugar (MUST be pure - not icing mixture)
Juice of one lemon, strained
Silver balls for decoration
Preparation time: 40 minutes (includes rolling/cutting/icing time)
Cooking time: 8-12 minutes
Preheat your oven to 150 degrees.
First, make your gingerbread dough. Put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend till it starts to come together. Turn out into a bowl and bring it into a lump with your hands. If it is a little dry, you can add a little milk, but be careful - the dough should be reasonably stiff. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make your royal icing, mix together the egg whites and pure icing sugar using a hand held beater. Egg white sizes vary considerably, so you need to add lemon juice till you have a good consistency for icing your biscuits. This recipe makes plenty of icing - if you are only planning to drizzle your stars, not completely cover them, you could just make half the amount. You can store the icing in an airtight container, covered in the fridge, for up to a week, or freeze any leftovers for up to three months.
Now roll out your dough. Flour a surface and roll out your dough to a thickness of half/three quarters of a centimetre. You can also roll the dough out between two sheets of baking paper if you find this easier. If the dough is a little wet, flour is a little. If you are finding that it cracks around the edges as you roll, use the heel of your hand to hold the cracks together as you push the dough out to the edges. The cracking will lessen as the dough gets thinner.
Cut out your stars. You can either use a cutter, or make your own star shapes from a cereal box and cut round these with a knife. Place your stars on a baking tray, lined with baking paper. Don't crowd them too much, although they will only expand a little on cooking.
If you are planning to hang your stars on the tree, use a chopstick to make a hole in them. Don't make it too close to the edge - toward the top of the centre of the star is the best place.
Cook the stars for around 10 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on how thick you have made your cookies, and ovens are also very variable, so start to check them after 8 minutes. They should be golden across the top and just starting to darken around the edges.
Take your stars out and let them cool completely. If you have made holes in your stars, poke the holes out again, if they have closed over during cooking. This will be easy while the stars are still hot.
If you would like to completely cover your stars, put the icing in a bowl and dunk them, face down, in the icing. If you icing is thicker, and you have too much icing on your star, wipe the excess off with a knife and thin your icing down with a little more lemon juice (you can use water if you have run out of juice). Then place them in a rack and let the excess run off the sides. Strew with silver balls at once, while the icing is still wet.
If you would like to drizzle your stars, put your icing in a piping bag. If you don't have a piping bag, a zip lock bag is a good substitute - just cut a little hole in the corner for the icing to come out. Strew with silver balls.
The icing will harden completely after a few hours, or overnight if it is very humid. Once it has set, you can thread ribbon or garden wire through the holes to hang on your tree, or wrap up in cellophane for gifts, or gobble up!, as you choose. Merry Christmas.