Before I started at primary school, I used to go to a very sweet neighbourhood playschool, not far from my home. I don’t remember much from those days 40+ years ago, but the other day I did have a rather nostalgic flashback to one of my playschool activities. I think it was probably called ‘baking’ and by all accounts it was inspired.
Playschool was not a high-tech, state of the art, all singing and dancing operation – it was a couple of nice ladies in a church hall with kind hearts, a few toys, a bit of space and a little kitchen. ‘Baking’ needed to be easy, cheap and pretty speedy to keep the attention of a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds. Take some flour and water and create a stretchy, pliable non-sticky dough that will behave nicely in the hands of toddlers. Give them a piece of dough each, a handful of currants and a rolling-pin and let them loose with wild, creative abandon. No restrictions on how many times the dough can be man-handled, dropped on the floor, trampled under foot or eaten (?!) – just have fun with it. And then, at home time, wrap it in one of the pages of an old catalogue (remember those? – the forerunner to online shopping…) so that you could proudly present your showstopper masterpiece to Mummy. And in our family, it would often then get cooked at home so that Daddy could enjoy his special treat after work. Lucky, lucky man …
‘Baking’ at school has moved on a bit since then and when Hella made gingerbread men in class, the biscuit was so yummy that I felt compelled to ask for the recipe. I’ve played around with it a bit by adding some stem ginger and reducing the baking time so that the centre has a slight squidge to it – so may I introduce my Stem Ginger Cookies. Very moreish, exceptionally gingery, perfectly squidgy and not excessively sweet.
And here’s why you won’t be able to resist these cookies –
- They are totally easy to make – as easy as child’s play in fact – and you probably have most of the ingredients already.
- You can omit the stem ginger if you’d rather keep it simple.
- Perfect biscuits to turn out quickly when you’ve got friends coming over or hungry children under your feet.
- No rolling or cutters required – just make the mixture into a ball and flatten with a fork.
- You can make them bigger or smaller if you wish – or indeed in the shape of gingerbread men. Adjust the cooking time accordingly by taking your lead from how much colour they are developing in the oven. If you prefer a softer centre, err on the side of less time in the oven.
- Pimp them up with a bit of melted, dark chocolate (put it in a plastic piping bag while the chocolate is still a bit warm; snip off a tiny bit of plastic at the tip and dribble the chocolate over the cookies). No artistic ability required. Allow the chocolate to set before moving them.
- Pimped or plain they make a lovely gift.
A cup of tea, a Stem Ginger Cookie and a good book. Heaven …
- 110g (4oz) butter
- 110g (4oz) light, soft brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons golden syrup (warm the spoon over the hob flame to make it easier to measure
- 75g (3oz) stem ginger (about 4 or 5 balls), finely chopped
- 350g (12oz) SR flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 2 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 baking sheets, lightly greased.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F (gas mark 5).
- Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and stem ginger in a large saucepan.
- Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the melted mixture and mix to form a dough.
- Divide the dough into roughly even pieces - I did 15 - and roll each piece into a ball.
- Place the balls of dough, evenly spread out, on the 2 baking sheets and press each one down with the prongs of a fork.
- Now bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes or until lightly golden.
- Allow to cool on a wire tray for a few minutes before enjoying.