Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shiny Happy Gingerbread People

This Sunday, I will be spending my birthday at a 4 year old birthday party for three of I's friends at an indoor playground, and then with my mother and brother for dinner (huzzah).  Perhaps understandably, I'm just not feeling all that celebratory this year.  (But I will tell you an amusing birthday story in my next post, which will explain why it always snows in this area on the 5th of December.  Stay tuned.)  The good news is that there's a window between bounce castle birthday party and birthday dinner during which I may be able to escape to the indoor market to get some truffles from my favorite local artisan chocolatier for a good friend and her partner who are getting married next Friday!  They've had a house together for a while, and seem to have everything they need, so I figured artisan chocolates might be a good gift, at least until they figure out what they need/want.  (And yes, in case you're asking yourself, you should absolutely order yourself some truffles from Tom at the Painted Truffle.  He's a good human being, in addition to being an artist.  Tell him the pregnant lady with the discriminating palate sent you.  He'll know exactly who you mean, and you will not be disappointed.)

In other happy news, I'm almost done, I think, with the baking for my students ... just one more kind after this, which can't be frozen, so I have to wait to make them until closer to the date of the event.  I'm hoping I've baked enough ... one can never tell, and college students are notoriously ravenous.  If I can just prevent them from absconding with entire plates full of cookies for "take out," I may be in good shape.

Gingerbread is a staple for most of us cookie-bakers in December, and I thought I'd post two recipes here, one vegan and one non-vegan.  The non-vegan one turns out crispy gingerbread people ("not just men," my son corrected me, "they could be girls, too"), and the vegan one--though the dough is a bit more temperamental--tends to turn out more chewy people.  I like both, for different reasons.  You decide.  Of course you can ice these; I tend to do so right before I serve them, and since these were destined for cryogenic preservation, I was going to wait.  They're actually quite tasty without the frosting, too, and you don't feel quite so bad when you bite the heads off.

Is it any wonder we like these so much?  Look at the shiny happy gingerbread people holding hands.  Almost makes you forget about things like a crappy month at work.

Gingerbread People, Standard Version

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Using a mixer on low speed, cream the brown sugar and butter in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Mix in the eggs and molasses.

Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in another bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix with a spoon. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap; place in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until pliable. Line 1 or more cookie sheets with parchment paper. Take about 1/2 cup dough at a time and roll on a floured surface until - to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out shapes, and using a spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets, leaving space between them. Refrigerate the cookies for 20 minutes, then bake until they just begin to brown at the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Gingerbread People, Vegan Version
1/3 c. canola oil
3/4 c. regular or brown sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. plain soymilk
2 to 3 c. whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (or a mix of both)
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. each ground nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ground ginger

In a large bowl whisk together oil and sugar for about 3 minutes. Add molasses and soymilk. The molasses and soymilk won’t really blend with the oil but that’s ok.

Sift in all of the other dry ingredients, mixing about half way through. When all of the dry ingredients are added, mix until a stiff dough is formed.  If it's too sticky, continue to add flour until you get something you can turn into a ball of dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or up to 3 days in advance. If you chill longer than an hour you may want to let it sit for 10 minutes to warm up a bit before proceeding.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease your cookie sheets.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4 inch thick. Cut out your shapes with your cookie cutters and use a thin spatula to gently place on cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet then move to a cooling rack. Wait until they are completely cool before icing.
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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. happy almost birthday! mine is on Friday so we can celebrate together virtually.

    I agree with JeCaThRe on the developer dude... not in a right frame of mind. I hope your supervisors recognize that too.

  3. Man oh man, gingerbread cookies sound divine right about now. Not sure about the sugar, we'll see what my GD test says.

  4. I love gingerbread. Love it. And, by the way, I have bookmarked several of your recipes for when I start my own holiday baking.

    I also think your son is pretty wonderful. They could be girls, indeed:)

    But I'm sorry about the crap day at work. And for passive-aggressive schmuckaroons who feel the need to cc ones' supervisors. Growl.

  5. Wow what an ass that guy at work sounds like...hope karma comes around and smacks him!

    Your gingerbread cookies look amazing! Such a wise little boy you have!

  6. Love the vegan version. They look as good as the normal ones.

  7. Oh yum! I don't bake my own - I'm addicted to Annas Pepparkakor (when I can get them), a Swedish biscuit. So these freeze well - and which of the others you've posted recently? I'm feeling the need to do more baking, but freezing some so I don't have a whole batch sounds like a good plan.

    BTW a guy in my office who has never baked before had to make something for our Movember morning tea; I gave him the coconut flour brownies recepe to make sure someone had something the celiacs in the office could eat. he made a trial batch for his inlaws which came out so well they're now his 'job' for Christmas. And they went down well in the office. :-)

  8. Thanks, all, for the support. I figure I just have to get through two more weeks of this nonsense, and then I can pretend these people don't exist for a week or two, until I'm temporarily back before my maternity leave.

    @K: Boo for GD. Keep me posted ... I will start making sugar-free things for your benefit if this is, indeed, your lot.

    @Adele: let me know how they turn out!

    @Ellie: that's quite a compliment, coming from you! You have such a beautiful--and tasty--blog.

    @tasiver: love the fact that the coconut flour brownies seem foolproof for the novice!

    All of the cookies I've made so far for the holiday season freeze well (I recommend wrapping them in plastic wrap and double-bagging, as much as I hate the waste), but I confess, it's also very easy to open the freezer, fish out one or two tasty morsels, and leave no one the wiser. Hm, do you think I've done this in the middle of the night lately? You betcha.

  9. We did our own (lazy) version of gingerbread men tonight, it involved a store bought kit with four men, frosting and candies to decorate. L loved it, although I wasn't quite able to figure out just what kind of facial features and clothing they had, but I guess that's par for the course when the decorator is 3 years old. :)

  10. OH MY! I am drooling over those chocolates...and what a great philosophy.

    So sorry for the bad day at work. I agree with comment #1, says more about that person than you.


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