Now that it’s December, the countdown to Christmas can officially begin. I’m one of those people who despairs for humanity when Christmas decorations and gifts begin to appear in shops the day after halloween. Call me the Grinch but I just strongly believe that people make a habit of celebrating pretty much anything and everything they possibly can for as long as they possibly can. Most holidays become overly commercialised and I feel like the hype to go crazy buying overly-extravagant gifts can overshadow the simpler joys and real meaning behind the holidays…(like making yummy gingerbread men).
That being said, I do love Christmas. Being able to spend time with my whole family friends, exchange our favourtie moments from the year whilst enjoying each others company, and amazing food of course, is the real reason why I love the holiday. The couple of weeks leading up to the 25th are some of my favourtie moments of the whole year, listening to christmas music and watching christmassy movies, putting up the Christmas tree, etc. is always a lot of fun. Not to mention baking up and absolute storm, because let’s face it, what’s Christmas without food??
Gingerbread men have always been one of my favourtie seasonal treats. They’re crunchy and the mix of warming spices will get you in the Christmas spirit no matter how much of a Grinch you are! This recipe is my attempt to make these little guys just that much healthier and provide you with a quick and easy vegan alternative to the traditional treat!
First things first. You’ll need to gather your ingredients.
There’s no way around it. You need to use blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses is the by-product from the process of refining sugar. However, unlike the highly refined sugar which is produced after the process, blackstrap molasses is actually very nutritious and contains a wealth of different minerals and vitamins. It is essential in this recipe as it creates that deep brown colour and lends a really wonderful treacle flavour which is characteristic of gingerbread. Although I can understand it’s not something that you might have lying around your kitchen, you can very easily find it at your local health store. Make sure you go for the unsulphured variety.
After measuring out your ingredients, add your spices, salt and baking powder into the flour and mix together really well. Then add in your coconut oil. It must be solid. This will be our substitute for the large amounts of butter which are traditionally used instead. Start rubbing the coconut oil into the flour mixture until it creates a fine bread crumb-like texture. It should look something like this:
This will take a few minutes. This step it really important. If you don’t rub the oil in properly, you’ll end up with little lumps of it in your finished dough.
In a separate bowl, mix together all the other ingredients until they are completely combined. BEWARE molasses is sticky, black and tastes horrible (it will taste good in the recipe though, I promise) – try not to spill it all over your kitchen counter like I did. It takes a moment or two till the molasses combines with the other ingredients but keep at. It should form a deep brown mixture:
Add this into the flour and coconut oil mixture, and stir really well. They will begin to come together and once they start to form a dough, just tip it out onto a floured work surface and roughly kneed into a ball…something like this:
Now, wrap this baby in cling film, pop it in the fridge and forget about it for a couple of hours. This will allow it to harden up a little, making your like a heck of a lot easier when it comes to rolling it out. Trust me.
So after an hour or two, bring your dough out of the fridge and cut it into quarters. Then flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll out one of the pieces until its about half a centimetre thick. Use little gingerbread men cutters to cut out little men from the sheet of dough and place them on a floured tray. Make sure you preheat your oven whilst you’re cutting out these little guys.
Keep going until you’ve used up all of the dough and formed your own little army of gingerbread men. If you decide your army is quite substantially large enough and find that you’ve still got dough let over, you can always freeze the left over dough (tightly wrapped in clingfilm) and then defrost it and use it at a later date!!
Throw your festive army into your oven until they emerge a deep colour of brown, firm but not hard! (They’ll harden up further as they cool!)
Whilst they’re cooling, make your icing. Throw the soaked cashews, maple syrup, almond milk and vanilla into your blender and blend into a smooth thick icing. Transfer this to a pining bag and decorate your gingerbread men however your heart desires.
And voila! – Your healthy vegan gingerbread men are ready to be devoured. Enjoy!
- 2½ - 3 cups whole wheat flour (and extra for dusting)
- ½ cup coconut sugar (or any other unrefined sugar)
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cloves
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup almond milk
- ⅓ cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
- ⅓ cup apple sauce
- ⅓ packed cup coconut oil (solid)
- For the icing:
- ¾ cup soaked cashews
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup of almond milk
- In a bowl, thoroughly combine flour, salt, baking soda and spices.
- Add in your coconut oil and rub into the flour VERY well until a bread-crumb-like texture forms and there are no lumps of coconut oil left.
- In a separate bowl, combine the almond milk, apple cider vinegar, apple sauce and molasses. Mix until they combine to form a dark mixture.
- Add the liquid into the bowl containing the flour mix and use a spatular to combine the two. Once the mix had combined and begins to form a dough, tip it out onto a floured surface.
- Roughly kneed to form a ball of dough - add a little extra flour if the dough feels too wet/sticky. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Bring your dough out of the fridge. Preheat your oven. Cut off about a quarter of the dough and roll out on a floured work surface until about half a cm thick.
- Use cutters to cut out shapes and place on a floured oven tray. Place this in the oven at gas mark 5/180C for approx. 8-12 minutes, until the biscuits are looking a deep brown colour and are firm, but not hard.
- Leave them to cool whilst you make your icing.
- FOR THE ICING: Throw all icing ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth.
- Place icing in a piping bag and decorate men once they have cooled.