Makes 20 gingerbread ghosts & 12 chocolate skeletons
COOKIE DOUGH INGREDIENTS
5 tbsp water
210g light brown sugar
3 tbsp treacle
3 tbsp golden syrup
3 tbsp ground ginger
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
250g salted butter, cold and diced
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
560g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH INGREDIENTS
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g cocoa powder
ROYAL ICING INGREDIENTS makes 600g
600g icing sugar, sifted
15g Meri-White powdered egg white (mixed with water, as per the instructions on the packet)
1 batch gingerbread cookies in the shape of ghosts (8 x 12cm)
1 batch chocolate cookies in the shape of gingerbread men (8 x 12cm)
600g royal icing (see above)
Black food colour
Small electric drill with 3mm drill bit for food use only
Thin orange satin ribbons
First prepare the cookie dough by lining 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl and cream together. Do not overwork the mixture, or the cookies will spread during baking. Beat the egg in a jug and slowly add to the butter mixture, whisking until well incorporated. Sift in the flour and mix until just combined. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and prepare your cookie pops, by rolling out the cookie dough until about 4-5cm thick. Use a cutter with a scalloped circle, to cut out the cookies, then insert a cookie or a cake pop stick about halfway into the side of each cookie. Patch the back of the cookie up with some extra dough if required.
Chill again for about 30 minutes, or until cool and firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 175°C/Gas mark 3. Bake the cookies for 6–10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Prepare your paper piping bags and then make your royal icing. Place the icing sugar, lemon juice (if using) and three-quarters of the Meri-White in the clean and grease-free bowl of an electric mixer.
Mix on the lowest speed until well combined. You may want to cover the mixing bowl with a cloth to prevent the icing sugar from going everywhere. If the mixture looks too dry, add more Meri-White. The icing should look smooth, but not wet.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl after about 2 minutes to make sure the icing is well combined. If it still looks too dry and grainy along the edges, add a little more liquid. If it looks slightly runny and glossy, add a little icing sugar to adjust the consistency.
Continue mixing on the lowest speed for 4–5 minutes, taking care to not overwork or over-aerate the mixture. The royal icing is ready when stiff peaks appear around the sides of the bowl and has a smooth and satin-like texture. Transfer the royal icing to a clean bowl and cover with a damp cloth. The icing can be stored for up to 1 week at room temperature if covered with lid or cling film.
You will need soft-peak black and white icing and flooding consistencies of white royal icing. Once prepared, keep the piping bags in a re-sealable plastic bag to prevent the icing from drying out between use.
To adjust the colour of your icing place the royal icing on a clean smooth surface or flat disc next to a small amount of paste or liquid food colour.
Use a palette knife to pick up a small amount of royal icing and mix it with the food colour. Work the food colour through the icing, making sure to break down any tiny specks of colour, which can burst and bleed as the icing dries if they are not properly incorporated. Once mixed, gradually add the coloured icing to the white icing and blend until you have achieved the required shade.
To make soft-peak icing start by dipping the palette knife in water and mix it until the icing looks a little glossy. It should form peaks that fall over.
For flooding icing transfer the icing to a small bowl. Mix with a spatula and add a little water until the icing looks shiny, flows and flattens within 4–6 seconds. Tap the bowl onto a hard surface to bring any air bubbles to the top and prick them with a cocktail stick, before filling the icing into a piping bag.
Take a piping bag filled with white soft-peak icing, cut a small section from the tip of the piping bag and pipe the outlines of the ghosts. Fill the outlined sections with white flooding icing and leave them to dry completely. Once dry, use black soft-peak icing to pipe on the eyes and mouths of the ghost. You can also use the black soft-peak icing to pipe cobwebs on some of the ghosts. Leave them to dry completely.
To decorate the skeleton cookies, take the piping bag with white soft-peak icing and pipe the outlines of a skeleton onto each cookie. Fill the outlined sections with white flooding icing and leave to dry completely.
Finally, make the ribbon holes in your ghost cookies. Only make the ribbon holes when the royal icing is completely dry, otherwise it will crack. Use a small electric drill with a clean, sterilized drill bit (about 3-4mm in diameter). Place the cookies on a wire rack, then holding the electric drill vertically, make a small hole in the top of each cookie. Alternatively, while the cookies are still hot, use a tiny round cookie cutter or the trip of a long, thin piping nozzle to make the ribbon holes. Thread pieces of thin orange satin ribbon through each of the holes.
For the skeletons you could use plain gingerbread men and pipe the skeletons on them free-hand.