Friday, December 28, 2012

The Gift of Gingies

Every holiday season, I make gingerbread people, aka "gingies."  It started out with our family baking cookies for a holiday ski club fundraiser several years in a row.  Then once I stopped skiing, I started making them to give away as gifts.  For the past several years, that is all anyone gets for Christmas from this broke college, and now grad, student.

Those of you that have never made gingerbread cookies, you might think, oh, what a lame gift.  However, those of you that have put the hours of intense labor into making dozens of these little ginger ninjas know that this is one of the most time-consuming and love-filled gifts you can give someone.  I'm serious, they take FOREVER.  Every year I get excited to make them, and then halfway through I vow to make more money the next year so I can buy people real presents.

This year I didn't come home in time to make them for everyone, so I sent out some Christmas cards and decided to just make the gingies for people in Boston.  I gave them to my boyfriend's family, my housemate's family, and some guys at my gym.

The trick to not getting sick of them is to use lots of different shaped cookie cutters so that you don't start drawing angry eyebrows on the ginger people when your hand gets tired from icing so many smiling faces.

Old Fashioned Gingerbread People (Gingies)
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker
Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie cutters

1 1/2 cups dark molasses
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
2/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup (5 Tbs) unsalted butter, softened
7 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsps allspice
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves (except I never have them)

Mix together molasses, brown sugar, and butter until smooth.
Dissolve baking soda in water, then add to bowl and mix thoroughly
In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients
Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, cup by cup.  Once the dough starts getting stiff, switch to a dough hook.
Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.  Flour a hard, cold, flat surface.  Take about 2 cups of the dough and roll it out about 1/2" thick.  The thicker the dough, the softer the cookies will be.  If you want crispier cookies, roll to a smaller thickness.

Cut out desire shapes
It is important to use small batches of the dough at a time, instead of rolling it out at once.  Otherwise, you end up re-rolling the dough too many times, and you will end up with very tough, floury-tasting cookies at the end.

Place cookies about 1-2" apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 

 Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes.  Cool completely on wire racks before decorating.

I used royal icing to decorate them.  It gets much harder and holds its shape better than a traditional confectioners' glaze.  Then I use red and green M&Ms for a little color.  You can also use colored royal icing or sprinkles.

Merry Christmas, and happy gingie-giving!
Love and cookies,

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