Saturday, January 7, 2012

Belated Gingerbread Men

I am a few weeks behind on posting this recipe, but better late than never, right?

This winter, one of my closest friends made a special request in a letter she wrote to me. She is fortunate enough to be working as a chef in New Zealand, but the warm summer weather and lack of free time left her cookieless and craving a holiday pick-me-up.

So, my son and I pulled out the digital cook book (a.k.a. my laptop) and found a satisfactory recipe for gingerbread men.

We measured, whisked, patted and chilled.
We rolled, cut, baked and decorated.

Before we knew it, we had a legion of gingerbread men and snowmen. We picked out a dozen of the strongest looking fellows, wrapped them in waxed paper and nestled them in a tin. Along with a few other items, we shipped our batch of Christmas Cheer to the other side of the world.

As of our latest update; our package arrived safely in New Zealand, ready to induce a highly contagious case of Happy Holidays. The gingerbread men have been going missing, one by one, since their arrival.

Keep this recipe in your file for cookies to bake next Christmas.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year & Season's Greetings!

Recipe from Joy of Baking.

Gingerbread Men
Makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter used.
Note: We doubled the recipe and used half of the dough to build a gingerbread house.

Gingerbread Men:
3 cups (390 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup (160 ml) unsulphured molasses (To prevent molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, first spray the cup with a non stick vegetable spray.)

Confectioners Frosting:
2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk or light cream

Gingerbread Men:
In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, (or with a hand mixer) beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.

Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least two hours or even overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Use a gingerbread cutter to cut out the cookies.  With an offset spatula lift the cookies onto the baking sheet, placing about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. If you are hanging the cookies or using as gift tags, make a hole at the top of the cookies with a straw or end of a wooden skewer. (If cookies are a little soft, place the baking sheet (with the cookies) in the fridge for about 10 minutes. This will prevent the cookies from losing their shape.)

Bake for about 8 - 12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, you can press raisins, currants, or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Otherwise, confectioners frosting can be used to decorate the cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Confectioners Frosting:
In an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and well blended.  Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add a little more milk if needed. Tint frosting with food color, if desired. Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and decorate the gingerbread men as desired.
Note: We added buttons & other decorations to our gingerbread men. Sprinkles, red hots and more can be found in the baking isle of your grocery store and help add color and character to your cookies.