At our bakery, the pre-dough is made in early November, and then kept in a kitchen cupboard for a month to improve the flavour of the gingerbread. You can make the dough right away if you’re in a hurry – the flavour won’t be as intense, but it will still be delicious. Baking the hearts in early December means they’ll keep, stored in the fridge, until Christmas – if they’re not eaten before then!
Approximately 20 hearts
500 g honey
250 g plain flour
2 egg yolks
10 g baker’s ammonia
10 g potash (see below)
750 g pre-dough
250 g plain flour
5 g ground cinnamon
5 g ground ginger
5 g ground cloves
oil, for greasing
flour, for sprinkling
Potash, an ingredient that is also used regularly in German baking (so it may be labelled ‘pottasche’ in German or ‘potaske’ in Danish). If you cannot find it at your local baking suppliers or a German or Danish deli, you can order it online from www.thegermanbakery.co.uk, or www.germandeli.co.uk.
200 g plain chocolate, preferably 85 per cent
cocoa solids, melted
Heat the honey until it reaches 40–50°C. Add the honey and flour to a bowl and work them well together with your hands. Pour the mixture into a container and seal with a lid. Store the pre-dough somewhere not too hot, such as a kitchen cupboard, for at least one month. Please note that the pre-dough may turn hard – even rock-hard – but that’s OK. When the potash is added, a chemical reaction takes place that slowly softens the dough.
Add the egg yolks and baker’s ammonia to a bowl and mix together until smooth. Then add potash to one or two spoonfuls of milk or water (be careful as it may get hot). Add the egg yolk and potash mixture to the pre-dough along with the flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and knead well. (If you’ve not made a pre-dough in advance, add the ingredients for the pre-dough now). By hand this will take 6–8 minutes but in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, allow 3 minutes at low speed and then 3 minutes at full speed. Grease a nonstick baking sheet with a little oil, dust with flour and set aside. Preheat the oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4. Sprinkle your work surface with flour, tip the dough out onto it and roll until it’s about 5 millimetres thick. Cut out hearts using a heart-shaped cutter. Gather the trimmings, roll again and cut out more shapes. Place the hearts on the prepared baking sheet and transfer to the oven. After 8–10 minutes gently press down on one of the hearts to test if they’re done – if your finger leaves a dent in the biscuit, bake for a little longer. Transfer the baked hearts to a rack to cool. They will be rock-hard when they come out of the oven, but they will soften a little once cooled and refrigerated. Place the hearts in a container, cover with a damp tea towel, and leave in the fridge for 3–4 days. When ready to serve, cover in melted dark chocolate, and transfer to a rack. Once the chocolate hardens, the hearts are ready to eat.
Only coat the gingerbread hearts you intend to serve immediately. The remaining hearts will keep in the fridge for up to one month.
Meyer’s Bakery is available here.