Once, when I was a kid, my parents took us to a restaurant where the dessert treat was getting to pick any cookie we wanted from a mammoth buffet of Christmas cookies. Even at 6 or 7 years old, I remember being dazzled by the huge variety and holiday sparkle glittering at me from that splendid table. I remember slowly walking by the choices and carefully evaluating every single cookie. And in the end . . . I chose a beautiful, sparkly gingerbread man. I think it was because he smiled so sweetly at me. There is nothing quite so beautiful and charming as a sweet little gingerbread man charming your Christmas cookie platter for Santa. 🙂
What are we waiting for? Let’s make ’em! 🙂
Classic Gingerbread Men
(This recipe comes from Gimme Some Oven; photos and directions are my own)
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
Cream together softened butter, powdered sugar, and brown sugar, until light and fluffy. Add in milk, molasses, egg, and vanilla, and mix well. Add in the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT flour and mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl (with the mixer stopped) to make sure your batter is completely combined. Add in flour and stir until mixed. Roll dough in plastic wrap and chill for several hours (overnight is preferable) until firm. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out shapes. Bake on a silpat lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until cookies are just starting to brown on the edges. Allow to cool completely before decorating.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
The best part about this DEEEEELICIOUS gingerbread recipe is that it’s easy peasy! Just boom bam bing, and you’re done! Start by creaming together your softened butter, powdered sugar, and brown sugar, until the mixture is light and fluffy. I usually just get my butter out of the fridge about 1/2 hour before I need it (or perhaps I just get it out to make my recipe, and then someone tiny needs a snack, or I have to referee an argument because someone hit someone, or maybe MOMMEEEEEE I NEED YOU RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!), and POOF. Good to go. Who said procrastination never helped anyone?
Next, add in your milk, molasses, egg, and vanilla, and mix well. *Whispers* Here’s a little secret for measuring anything sticky, like molasses or honey . . .
Spray your measuring cup with cooking spray before you measure, and your icky sticky stuff will SLIIIIIIDE right on ‘outta there! You’re so welcome.
After you mix in the wet ingredients, add in the rest of the spices and dry ingredients EXCEPT flour and mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure your batter is completely combined. YESSSSSSS it actually does call for black pepper. Just pretend you’re not using pepper in cookies, and add it. The little spicy kiss at the end will be worth it. 😀 (What did the boy gingerbread man say to the girl gingerbread man . . . er, gingerwoman? “Hey baby . . . you certainly are looking spicy today!” hehe).
Next, add in your flour and stir the dough until mixed. Do yourself a favor and start out the mixer on low so that you don’t have your own little “winter wonderland,” right there in the kitchen. 😉 Now here’s the kicker about gingerbread dough . . . it’s gotta be CHILL. (Why are you using capitalization so much in this article?) Haha. I can’t help it. Cookies make me happy, and when I’m happy I have to use CAPITAL LETTERS. Try it. It’s fun!
Roll your finished dough in plastic wrap and chill it for several hours (overnight is preferable) until it’s nice and firm. Trust me . . . this chilled dough will make your rolling and cutting out process MUCH (oh sorry . . . I mean *whispers* “much”) easier. In fact, if you want to, you can divide the dough into 2 separate balls and chill them a little more quickly because the pieces are smaller.
Once your dough is nice and chilled (it will be much stiffer than the soft dough you started with), roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out whatever shapes you want. I love to use a silpat for baking (a whaaa????), because absolutely NOTHING sticks to it. Silpat mats are kind of like reusable parchment paper. I use them almost every day, from kneading bread to decorating cookies, to lining a cookie sheet underneath a pie when I’m doing holiday baking. All the mess just wipes right off. Trust me . . . these little beauties are the perfect gift for the baker in your life, or for an inexpensive little indulgence for yourself. Come on– you live off of the leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts your toddler leaves on her plate as you zip around the house chasing after her and asking “You won’t eat your sandwich– why are you trying to eat that ladybug?!?!” Yes. You totally deserve this.
Anyway, after you cut out your shapes, bake your cookies on a silpat (or parchment) lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, just until they are starting to get a little toasty brown on the edges. Yes– it IS tricky to tell when a brown cookie is getting brown. And yes, I have burned a few batches (eh– we’ll call ’em sunburned) when I guessed wrong. If you really can’t tell, use a spatula to lift one up and check underneath. If it’s toasty and brown on the underside, it’s done. If it looks pale, give it another minute or two in the oven.
Let your cookies finish cooling on a cooling rack, and then go to town decorating!!! Oh man . . . decorating gingerbread men is just so much fun. You can use red and green M&Ms, edible pearls, or even red hot candies for the “buttons.” As far as icing goes, you can use whatever icing you like, but I like to use royal icing (my recipe for royal icing is here— and I usually leave out the almond extract when making gingerbread men). I like to use royal because it dries hard, which means I can stack these cuties for Christmas giving. It also means I can stack these cookies high on Santa’s bountiful cookie tray . . .
And I don’t know about you, but I think we can never be too careful with Santa’s cookie tray . . . it’s ALWAYS better to load it up. Better safe than sorry, I say.
And I’m pretty sure when Santa sees these sweet, smiling little faces, he will love them, too– just like I fell in love with the sweet, smiling gingerbread men all those years ago.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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