If you are a nerd like me, then you will be aware of the recent seismic shock that has occurred in our world. Even if you are not a nerd, then it still cannot have escaped your notice that an event has come to pass the magnitude of which has not been witnessed since the big flaming rock that squashed the dinosaurs. I am, of course, referring to the purchase of Lucasfilm by the Disney Corporation…
Star Wars fans have not had the easiest of times over the past three and a half decades. Our relationship with George Lucas has been very much like that of a woman who is married to a husband who is a serial cheat. Everyone else can see that he’s a low down, no good dirty rat, but we have consistently refused to listen and deliberately blinded ourselves to his philandering ways, choosing instead to stand by our man. And whenever someone has tried to open our eyes to the truth, we have savagely turned against them, telling them that they don’t know what they’re talking about and that they’re just jealous. They don’t know about our relationship, they don’t see how he is when we’re alone together. He treats us special. He’s our soul mate!!!!
Did I wander into a weird zone just then? I think I did. Let’s just breeze past it and pretend it didn’t happen…
However, what I cannot breeze past is the smack in the face and black eye that was and is the Star Wars saga blu-ray box set. I have forgiven a lot: Ewoks, Jar-Jar Binks, the constant CGI tinkering, Yoda in those gosh awful Vodaphone adverts. I even forgave that stupid ‘NOOOO!’ that Darth Vader utters at the end of ROTS. But when Georgie boy slipped that exact same ‘NOOOO!’ into the scene where the Emperor is tickling Luke with his magic finger lightning, that was The Line, the stepping over from which there is no turning back. To this day I have steadfastly refused to purchase the blu-ray box set… at least not until the price falls below £40. Does that seem harsh? Well then you clearly cannot see how badly my heart has been trampled.
Yet it’s ironic that in the end it wasn’t us who did the leaving. Out of the blue our man tells us that he is hitting the road, that we’re old and used up and he’s bored with us. Well the feeling is more than mutual, George darling. Ta-ta and don’t let the door hit you in your big fat wallet on the way out. Yet the question remains; will Prince Charming treat us any better? Only time will tell. For now, as a way of coping with this sudden upheaval, I have devised the following edible gingerbread Christmas decorations.
Now you may be wondering to yourself, what on Earth does Mickey Mouse have to do with Christmas? Well it’s obvious, isn’t it? Disney owns Christmas! They bought out the exclusive rights to the entire season a couple of decades ago. Why else do you think people these days say ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Merry Xmas’? It’s because every time you say the word ‘Christmas’ you have to pay royalties to Disney. Ah darn it, now I have to pay them because I’ve said it several times now. I’d better take care of this straightaway or else I’ll be in trouble. Why don’t you look through the lists below and get your stuff ready? I’ll see you back here in a few moments once I’ve found my credit card and made a hefty financial transfer to the House of Mouse…
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
- A4 white craft card
- A4 thick, clear craft plastic – (found on-line or any craft or hobby store)
- A Sharpie pen
- Sharp craft knives – (watch your fingers)
- Icing tool set
- Cling film
- Rolling pin
- A big kitchen knife
- A sturdy saucepan
- A stiff rubber spatula
- A lifting spatula
- A large bowl
- Tin foil
- Silicone or baking paper
- A large baking tray
- Scooby strings
- Zip lock plastic food bags
- A large baking tray
- Scooby strings
- A hammer
- 75 grams of dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of golden syrup
- 1 tablespoon of black treacle
- 1 tablespoon of orange marmalade
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
- 95 grams of butter or margarine
- 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- 225 grams to 400 grams of plain flour
- Clear coloured hard sweets
Okay, I’m back. Now, let’s put all our troubles behind us and make some lovely gingerbread…
Making gingerbread isn’t as scary a procedure as you might imagine. Any idiot can do it – I’m living proof. And you’re no idiot, so this should be a breeze for you. All you do to start with is put the following ingredients into a large saucepan: Golden syrup, black treacle, brown sugar and all the spices:
Stir over a low heat until they are all melted together…
…And then add the butter and stir until melted:
Take the pan off the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda and stir as some fizzy magic takes effect:
This next stage you can do in the saucepan if its big enough – it saves on the washing up. However you might end up getting some spillage, which will make for extra cleaning anyway. So I personally like to use a large bowl because there’s more room for elbow grease – you’re going to need it.
Place 225 grams of the flour into the bowl, then pour the melted fizzy sugar and spice mixture over it and stir it all together:
What you’re looking for is a stiff pliable ball of dough. The 225 grams you have put in probably won’t be enough – that’s where the extra flour comes in. Keep stirring in flour heaped spoonfuls at a time until you get a consistency like soft modelling clay. Then tip the dough out onto either a sheet of cling film or baking paper and wrap it up. Wrap it up again in a layer of tin foil and put the dough ball into the fridge to chill for at least an hour or ideally overnight.
While you’re waiting for things to firm up, you’ve got plenty of time to cut out the templates you’re going to use to make your gingerbread shapes. This is the point where it starts to get a bit tricky and an OCD personality like mine comes in handy. Failing that, an extraordinary level of care and patience will do.
I have saved you a bit of trouble and made the designs for the templates for you. All you need to do is click on the image below and print it out onto a sheet of A4 card… best print out a couple of spares as well just in case there’s a mishap:
Do you recognise the designs? Well the main body of them is Mickey Mouse, obviously; but for those of you who are not afflicted with chronic geek-itis, the image inside the top Mickey is the insignia for the Rebel Alliance, and the one in the lower Mickey is the logo for the Galactic Empire. Now you know.
Prepare your template cutting kit. On a tabletop set out a cutting mat, craft knives, Sharpie pen, clear craft plastic and the Mickey templates you have printed out. Proceed to cut out the cardboard templates. Select a craft knife that you can grip comfortably and firmly. This is important as you don’t want to slip and end up in Casualty with a ventilated artery. Keep in mind that these blades are razor sharp and the moment you lose respect for them, that’s when they become your enemy. If you are unsure about how to use them properly then you can always seek assistance from a responsible 10-year-old:
Take a sheet of plastic and the Sharpie pen. Lay the cardboard templates over the plastic and draw around them. Cut out the shapes from the plastic just as you did with the cardboard. The Imperial Mickey in particular can be a bit fiddly, but that’s only to be expected from from an evil Galactic Empire:
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.
Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.
Take the gingerbread dough out of the fridge. It should have firmed up quite nicely by now. Whatever you do, don’t roll out the whole block as it is; you’ll do yourself an injury. Instead slice off a liberal portion of the dough and work it with your hands until your body heat has softened the gingerbread to the feel of a ball of Plasticine. Flatten the dough between two layers of cling film and roll it out with your rolling pin to a thickness of approximately 3 to 5 millimetres:
Place one of your templates on top of the cling film over the rolled out dough. I have chosen the Imperial Mickey as it is the most difficult and I feel that it is always best to get the hard jobs out of the way first. Because if you choose to do the simple jobs first, you’ll be distracted by the thought of the difficult chore that lies ahead and you won’t do your best work even on the simple bits. Cut around the template and through the cling film all the way through the dough with your craft knife. Select an appropriate implement from your icing tool set, one that works best for you, to lift out the excess portions of gingerbread. Whatever you do don’t rush; take your time. You are in your own kitchen making biscuits, not on Masterchef rolling a chicken ballantine; there are no time limits. This is about having fun; take all the time you need. Try to imagine Yoda’s voice whispering softly in your ear, “Patience, you must learn….”
At this point keep the layers of plastic pressed to the gingerbread. The shapes you have cut out are very delicate and will become misshapen and may even break if you try lift them off the work surface freehand. Slide a spatula under the cut out gingerbread shapes and transfer them to the prepared baking tray. Then you can peel off the plastic template and the cling film, using an icing tool to lift them away. Make sure you get rid of every last shred of cling film, because melted plastic is not a very nice topping for a biscuit.
Now her comes the real magic…
Open your bag of hard sweets. There are a variety of different brands available, but I have found that Fox’s Glacier Fruits work best, (I wonder if they’ll give me a little something for the product plug)… Unwrap a good number of the sweets and sort out the colours that you like best:
You will need to do this next bit only for the Imperial Mickey design as it has some small fiddly gaps, (damn that evil Empire!) Place a number of sweets into a zip lock bag on a solid surface and then have at them with your hammer until you have smashed them into tiny, tiny bits. This is a nice bit of stress relief for you after all that tedious fiddling about with the templates earlier:
Place the smashed fragments of sweets into the narrow bits around the edges of the Imperial Mickey design and place a whole sweet into the big Death Star eye in the centre.
Oh yes, I almost forgot: use a toothpick to puncture a couple of holes into Mickey’s ears. You can thread the Scooby strings through these so you can hang the gingerbreads as festive decorations or wear them around your neck as edible bling.
Now place the gingerbread loaded baking tray into the preheated oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
The procedure for the Rebel Mickey design is exactly the same except somewhat less fiddly. Also you don’t really need to smash any sweets for this design, (but you can if you want to – smashing things is fun). All you really need to do is place three whole sweets into the centre cut out. The colour scheme I chose for Imperial Mickey was quite conservative, but for the Rebels we can mix it up and make it funky – because that’s what being a rebel is all about:
Once the baking has finished, what you end up with should look something like this:
As pretty as it looks, do not be tempted to touch it, because the melted sweets will still be soft. Instead grip the edges of the baking paper and carefully lift the gingerbreads off the baking tray and place them on a wire rack. Leave them to cool for between 7 to 10 minutes, then you can just lift them off the paper and thread the Scooby strings through the ear holes. If the holes have closed up a little (which I understand can happen with piercings) just get another toothpick and widen them a little:
They sure look lovely, don’t they? They almost make me forget about the decades of nerdy heartbreak. Lets hope the future is as bright as these biscuits….
I just realised that I forgot to take a photo of one of these tasty trinkets hanging as they were meant to be seen. Fortunately one of my friends, Karen Sherwood of the Cupola Gallery in Hillsborough Sheffield, had my back and tweeted picture. Thank you Karen: