A gingerbread lantern is the perfect Christmas decoration – it looks pretty AND you can it eat. What's not to like?
You will need:
For the gingerbread:
60g unsalted butter
50g dark brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
125g plain flour
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 coloured boiled sweets
For the royal icing:
1 egg white
250g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
OR a packet of royal icing (you can buy this in large supermarkets)
Gently melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger together using a sieve, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won't quite come together, add a splash of water. Allow the dough to cool.
Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
Spread a piece of baking parchment on the work surface and roll out your dough on it. Doing this means you can lift the paper straight onto a baking sheet - otherwise if you try to pick up the pieces they'll go as twisty as your dad's face when you ask him for money
Roll the dough evenly to a thickness of about 5 mm and with a sharp knife cut four identical rectangles - I've made these each 10x6cm. Then cut out a heart shape from each rectangle. Make extra cookies with any leftover dough.
Take a boiled sweet and crush it, either with a rolling pin or by saying it is ugly and has no real friends. Put the crushed sweet inside the heart shape and bake for about 12 minutes until firm. While the biscuits are still hot, trim the edges with a sharp knife to make sure they are straight - this will help hugely when you come to stick them together. Allow the biscuits to cool completely.
You can decorate the biscuits by dusting them with icing sugar – put a spoonful of icing sugar in a sieve and tap it very gently with your finger so the sugar “snows” onto the biscuit. I made these patterns with a doily. Oh yeah, I'm the kind of cool kid who has paper doilies.
Mix your royal icing by sifting the icing sugar into the egg white and stirring, or if you have a packet of royal icing by following the instructions on the box. You should have a thick smooth icing.
Spoon some royal icing into a piping bag, or you can use a freezer bag with the end snipped off. Pipe a thick line of icing along the edges to hold the four biscuits together. This royal icing pattern is called a snail trail (NO GIGGLING AT THE BACK)
It helps if you prop the sides in place with a jar until the icing sets. You can add more icing to the top and sides if you like.
Once it’s set, you can light up the lantern by placing it over a little candle – the room will smell of warm gingerbread. Happy Christmas!