Aaah, holiday treats! Candy canes, chocolate Santas and all manner of inventions to be found on Pinterest! But truly, nothing says Christmas time more to me than the flavor and scent of gingerbread cookies. Especially these gingerbread men cookies: my mother Val’s recipe found in her Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery. She accumulated each volume by collecting stamps at the supermarket. Those books served her cooking repertoire well, long before the internet came along.
I can understand now that I have two kids of my own going here and there, them needing rides and chaperoning in every waking moment of the day that Val had to delegate the cookie making to us kids considering she had three children’s activities schedules to juggle. Sometimes the cookies came out well but many of them were often burnt on the edges or undercooked and the decorating….let’s just say that after the one time my younger brother was allowed to help, his presence was no longer requested in the kitchen. Gingerbread men covered in red gel frosting for blood and green gel camo outfits were not what my mother had in mind to hand out to her friends as holiday gifts. We ate a lot of gingerbread men at home that year.
Whatever your decorating style, I am sure that you will find these cookies to be tasty. They hit all the right notes in flavor and aroma from the molasses and ginger. Perhaps you will be brave enough to employ some child labor of your own in the decorating. Or you can drop the kids off to their scheduled activities and keep the fun of adding frosting and sprinkles to yourself.
(makes about 3 dozen)
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 3/4 cup flour, plus more for rolling out dough
2 teaspoons dried, ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk (regular will do, in a pinch)
frosting, sprinkles, candy decorations
Mix molasses, sugar and butter, well. In another bowl, mix together flour, ginger, salt and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, stirring well until smooth. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (Overnight is best as this step is CRITICAL. You will literally pull your hair out if you try to roll out the dough before it is chilled.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove about 1/2 cup of dough from the refrigerator (keep the rest chilled while you are working). Roll out dough on a well floured board to 1/8″-1/4″ thick. Cut with floured cutters and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheets. ( I use Silpat liners or parchment paper would work well, too.) Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until just before cookies brown on edges. Remove from oven and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely before decorating.
If planning to hang cookies on tree, make a hole about double the size you want the end result to be in the cookie BEFORE baking.