Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I love this time of year! Even though I'm Jewish, gingerbread is just one of those annual traditions that fits so well into an "Equal Opportunity Kitchen". Go crazy at the bulk stores (you can see I did), gather friends over for an afternoon, share a bottle of wine or whatever your choice of beverage is and make it into a fun thing to do.
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light or dark molasses
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp groung nutmeg
Drinking straw or large skewer for making holes (optional)
In a large bowl, beat the shortening and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and egg until well blended. Gradually add sifted flour, banking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg into the molasses mixture and beat until blended. The dough will be sticky.
Divide the dough into 4 balls, cover each ball with waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours. (NOTE: This step is critical - we found out the hard way). When tightly wrapped, this dough will stay in the fridge for a week.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the centre of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or leave ungreased and set aside.
On a lightly floured board, roll one of the chilled balls of dough 1/4 inch thick. Lightly dip a cookie cutter in flour (this makes it easier to release the cookie) and press it straight down into the dough. Press the edges of the cutter to make sure it has cut through the dough evenly. Cut cookies close together to avoid rerolling. The excess dough can be saved and rerolled once, but the cookies will be tougher.
With a spatula, gently transfer each cookie to the baking sheets. If a cookie is to be hung, use a drinking straw or large skewer to press a hole through the top. If not frosting the cookies, you may decorate them with raisings or nonmelting candies before baking by gently pressing them into the dough.
Bake until cookies are set, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Decorate the cooled cookies with Decorative Icing using a decorating bag (or just get the icing tubes and tips - works just fine). Let the cookies dry on a wire rack until the icing is set - 20-30 minutes. Store in an airtight container, separating successive layers with sheets of wax paper.
Check out this how-to video.
Get creative, make family likenesses, gingerbread heroes - the sky's the limit. I don't think we ever laughed so hard.
Note: Also this really seems fussy - once you get a few people together and a rythym going you'd be surprised how fast this really goes and the results are deeee-licious.
Then we pushed the limit and created a gingerbread train - I'm sure it looks like we had our eyes closed but the fun we had far outweighed the embarassment at the lack of creative genius. Memories last a lifetime - make this one of yours.
P.S. If you have a tree - hang them and make up stories about them - such fun!