Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gingerbread Men with Attitude

I pinched this recipe - with permission - from a bakery that used to make it each Christmas for the customers of a major department store. The original recipe makes a vast number of Gingerbread Men. Because I felt reasonably sure you wouldn’t want to make 20 or 30 dozen, I’ve cut down the proportions. The Attitude part of this recipe? I’ve made these cookies a little more “gingery” by adding some freshly grated ginger, some candied ginger, and some crystalized ginger. Although these cookies are rolled very thinly, they emerge from the oven soft and puffy. With only minimal decoration, they look very festive!

P.S: When my daughters made this recipe, unexpected things happened! 

Gingerbread Men with Attitude:
To Prepare Cookies:
½ c. vegetable shortening (use part butter)
¾ c. loosely packed brown sugar
3-½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. powdered ginger
1 tsp. peeled and finely grated fresh ginger (optional)
1 tsp. finely chopped candied ginger (optional)
2 tbsp. finely chopped crystalized ginger (optional)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt (do not omit or reduce)
2 tbsp. water
2 medium eggs or 1-½ large eggs (beat 2 eggs and divide)
¾ c. cooking molasses
½ tsp. lemon extract
Cream shortening, butter, and brown sugar together until fluffy and sugar granules are fully dissolved, about 5 min. Add flour, cinnamon, and four gingers, beating until fully mixed. In a separate bowl, combine baking soda, salt, water, eggs, molasses, and lemon extract, whisking together well. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients, mixing by hand to a smooth, stiff dough (I literally mix dough “by hand,” using both hands to squeeze and mix it. This dough is too stiff for most electric mixers, and mixing it with a spoon is difficult). Wrap and refrigerate in small batches for several hours or overnight. Working with small batches, some of kneaded dough will always be very cold. 
Knead lightly to smooth one small batch of chilled dough. If dough feels too soft, knead in a little flour to stiffen - the more flour, the harder the cookie. Roll out to ¼-inch thickness using floured rolling pin on floured work surface. Cut into gingerbread shapes. Bake 10 min. on parchment-covered baking sheet, just until set. Transfer cookies to cooling racks.
To Decorate Cookies:
I make large and small Gingerbread Men, and buy both large and small brightly colored Smarties or M&M candies as buttons and eyes. I use multi-colored decorating sprinkles as “mittens” and “boots.” I keep them in place with this frosting.
Decorator’s Frosting:
1 egg white
½ tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. white vanilla
1-½ c. icing sugar (powdered or confectioner’s sugar)
Beat egg white and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gradually add icing sugar, beating until very stiff. Transfer frosting to piping bag, using small, fine nozzle to make frosting dots for eyes, larger dots for buttons, and a cute little smile. Press Smarties into frosting dots before icing hardens and sets. Brush a very light coating of icing on Gingerbread Men’s hands and feet. Dip into sprinkles. Return Gingerbread Men to racks so frosting can set extra-hard.

Note: You’ll find another version of Decorator’s Frosting in the Index.

To make cookies, combine brown sugar,
shortening, butter, flour, spice, four gingers

Combine liquid ingredients separately

Add liquids to dry ingedients

Mix "by hand" - that works best! Chill dough overnight

Flour work surface and rolling pin; prepare to cut cookies

Bake and cool on racks

To make frosting, beat egg white and sugar stiffly

Pipe on frosting buttons and eyes

Add Smarties or M&Ms

I've named him Quasimodo
My grand-daughters are far more talented than I am in the kitchen. The day their mother made Gingerbread Men (hers being much more artistic than mine), each girl lost a tooth. It works differently as we age. The day I made my Gingerbread Men with Attitude, Ron and I each gained a pound. We call this Tooth or Consequences.

Grand-daughter Alina 

Toothless Alina

Toothless Isabel

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