Gingerbread cookies are a great cookie to bake at home with little ones. Fab all year round, but even more special at Christmas! You can't beat the smell as they're baking and then all that fun decorating makes them a firm favourite for many families.
Traditional gingerbread cookies are made with refined white flour, sugar, syrup or molasses, iced with more sugar and often topped with sweets too and therefore this recipe was a bit of a challenge to make low carb.
If you're looking for a crispy, crunchy, snapping ginger nut type biscuit, then unfortunately this will not hit that spot for you. But if you like a softer gingerbread cookie (more like the texture of a Scottish oatcake) with a lovely warm ginger flavour then this shouldn't disappoint!
Because I'm not using a wheat flour for these cookies, I have added an ingredient that may only be familiar to those who are used to baking gluten free recipes called xanthan gum. This white powder is a natural vegan thickening agent and stabiliser. It helps to bind the cookies so that they hold together better, rather than crumbling.
As I wanted to make gingerbread men and planned on icing them, I bought a different sweetener to what I normally use. In the majority of my recipes I use Total Sweet xylitol, in fact I still use xylitol in this gingerbread cookie recipe, just not for the icing.
Xylitol can still be used for icing, but needs to be blitzed into a fine powder. With my food processor out of action, I bought some powdered erythritol online instead.
Erythritol is another type of natural sweetener which is a sugar alcohol (polyol), like xylitol. It is commonly used as a sweetener replacement for icing sugar in low carb baking. Erythritol is not quite as sweet as table sugar and has a cooling sensation on the tongue, but does not leave an aftertaste like some sweeteners and is less likely than most sweeteners to cause gastric side effects. To help with the cooling sensation, I added lemon juice to my icing which goes really well with the gingerbread flavour.
Erythritol is not usually found in local shops and so if you want to purchase some, you will need to shop online. I bought mine from Amazon where there is a large selection to choose from. If you are looking online for erythritol, make sure you look for the powdered version (rather than granulated) and one which is Non GMO.
*WARNING - DON'T RUSH YOUR GINGERBREAD COOKIES!!!
*Please note; you need plenty of time to make this recipe as it is advisable to chill the gingerbread dough overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours
Whilst developing this cookie recipe I decided to make a sugar free gingerbread latte recipe (as I know so many ladies enjoy these at Christmas when they appear in coffee shops everywhere).
This gingerbread cookie recipe works fantastically with my Sugar Free Gingerbread Latte!
I bought these cutters from Amazon and the smallest gingerbread man (3cm) was the perfect size for sprinkling into the cream!
*Replace butter with coconut oil to make Dairy Free
*Replace egg with a flax egg to make Vegan
Add the almonds, xylitol, bicarb soda, xanthan gum, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl and stir well to combine and break down any lumps
Add the softened butter in small chunks and then rub between fingers into the dry ingredients
(if substituting with coconut oil, melt the oil and leave to cool before pouring in, then mix well)
Make a hole in the middle of the mixture, crack an egg into the hole, add the agave and lemon and then stir using your fingers to combine. Use your hands to mix the ingredients into a dough. Ensure the ingredients are well mixed so that the dough is the same consistency throughout and form a large ball (the dough will be sticky, slightly wetter than pastry dough)
Wrap the dough ball in cling film or grease proof baking paper and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours. Ideally leave to chill overnight so that the flavours are well absorbed and the dough is well chilled
Gingerbread Cookies - Day 2
Preheat the oven to 160°c (mine is a fan oven)
Line 2 baking trays with grease proof baking paper
If using cookie cutters: Roll out the gingerbread dough between 2 pieces of grease proof baking paper to your desired thickness. (I rolled mine around 3-4mm thick)
The dough can become quite sticky, therefore it is important to use the baking paper when rolling the dough.
Use cutters to cut out cookie shapes and place onto the baking trays leaving plenty of space between each cookie
If making free hand ginger cookies: Divide the mixture into small balls and place onto the baking trays, leaving plenty of space between each ball.
Using a fork press down gently one way, then press down again the opposite way to create a round cookie with a criss cross pattern on top
Place the cookies into the freezer on the baking trays for 10 minutes (or fridge for 30 minutes if you do not have space in the freezer)
Place the chilled cookies straight into the oven on the chilled baking trays for 15-35 minutes (Cookies of different sizes and thickness will vary in the amount of time they need baked) - KEEP A VERY CLOSE EYE ON THEM!
The cookies are baked on a low temp for a long time to avoid burning and to help crisp them up as much as possible. The cookies will darken in colour, but should not blacken. Dark cookies are fine, black ones are burnt!
After 15 minutes, check the cookies by gently pressing them. They should feel firm to the touch. If they are soft, then add another 5 mins to the baking time and then test them again. Continuing adding 2-5 mins at a time until you are happy with them
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes
Place the gingerbread cookies onto a wire cooling rack. Once cool they are ready to ice, or to eat!
Sugar Free Royal Icing
Prepare an piping bag or bottle ready to put your icing into
Add erythritol and lemon juice into a small bowl or cup
Add 1 tsp of warm water and mix well, then add the 2nd tsp of warm water bit by bit, mixing well until a thick icing is formed
If adding any colouring, add it at this point. If the colouring thins out the icing, then add more erythritol until you regain the right consistency
Add in the xanthan gum and mix well
Add the icing into a piping bag, twist the bag round tight and snip the end off
Test your piping on a plate before decorating, then you are ready to go!
This recipe works well with orange zest added, or you can add more ground ginger if you want a bigger ginger kick. Avoid adding fresh ginger (it is too wet), or stem ginger which is seeped in syrup. You can also melt some 70% cocoa dark chocolate to pipe, drizzle or dunk these in.
The cookies themselves are low carb, but of you decide to add a small amount of normal icing to these, remember that normal icing sugar will increase the carb content and so it is best to increase your pairing when eating them. Icing sugar is pure sugar and will have an instant impact on blood sugar levels.
Sweeteners for baking:-
Sweeteners vary greatly and so I advise using the one specified in the recipe (if I have specified one) for the best results.
I find xylitol works very similar to sugar in baking, it weighs the same like for like as sugar and it is also a natural sweetener. Xylitol when eaten in large amounts may, like many sweeteners cause a laxative type effect, but I find it is not as bad as other sweeteners in this respect at all. The type of xylitol I purchase is called Total Sweet and is available in some larger supermarkets, health food stores like Holland & Barrett and on Amazon.
If you choose to use a different sweetener you may need significantly less than the recipe stipulates and you may experience a bitter aftertaste in your baked goods. Xylitol weighs the same like for like as sugar, where as many other sweeteners only need a tiny amount for the same sweetness, Jo xx
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