Saturday, 8 December 2012

Best Gingerbread Cookies Ever

We all are familiar with the gingerbread man story, and the various cookies which can be bought during the Christmas season at every store. I find most of those cookies tough and tasteless. Here is a recipe for a melt in your mouth cookie, which has lots of flavour. I have large (4") and small (2") men and women cutters, but I have also made hearts, circles, stars, etc. with this recipe. I like to make lots of these cookies to hang on the Christmas tree, and if  I know there are children who are going to visit, I make some special people ones with their names written on them. (I would sometimes make a set of these gingerbread people for kids to take to school and share with the class. In that case I would make an individual cookie for each child.) You can let your imagination go wild with the decorations. Icing is a must of course, with several colours, for spreading, drawing and writing. Different kinds of candies, also sprinkles, tiny stars, circles, silver dragee balls, red and green sugar sprinkles, non-pareil, anything you want to add.
**  do not use this recipe for making gingerbread houses, the dough is too soft and it is too rich, so the walls will crumble. I will post the house recipe later.

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, just roll about a single batch at a time.
What you need (for the cookies): 1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened; 1/2 cup shortening; 1/2 cup white sugar; 1/2 cup brown sugar - dark or demarra is best; 1/4 cup molasses; 1 tsp rum extract; 1 egg - well beaten; 1/2 tsp salt; 2 cups flour; 1 tsp each of baking powder and soda; 1 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice; 2 tsp of ginger.

What you do: In a large bowl, cream the fats and sugars together, then beat in the egg, molasses and salt. In another bowl, mix all the remaining dry ingredients together. Add to the sugar mix in small batches to make a soft dough. Chill an hour in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as you can, and place on a cookie sheet. Use a straw to make holes for hanging if desired. Bake about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Re-cut holes if needed while cookies are still hot. Let cool for a few minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely. After cooling completely, thread an 8" ribbon through the holes, and decorate.

Gather all the scraps of dough, knead lightly, then roll again and cut as many more as can fit.  Bake as above. Again gather the scraps and lightly knead, then roll out and use a knife to cut into wedges. Bake as above, but these are the 'reject' cookies that my family got to eat, as they would be a little tough.

What you need for the decorations: all the stuff listed above. If there are children in your home, this is the FUN part. Use various tips to decorate cookies with icing. You can place all the candies and sprinkles on the table for everyone to share. (Be prepared for a huge mess. That is always part of the experience). Decorate each cookie as you wish. We had some 'dressed' with icing skirts or pants, and shirts in a colour, while trims and frills were added in different colours. Some just had the traditional white trims like on "Shrek", with candies for buttons, and eyes. Candies such as shoestring licorice, gum drops, mint leaves, or fuzzy peaches can be cut into smaller pieces to make interesting faces. Finally, all the different types of sprinkles can be added for a unique look. If they are made for it, after all the icing has dried, hang the cookies on the tree.

As always, enjoy. Enjoy the time spent together with those you love. And then, enjoy eating the cookies.

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