My neighbor’s children are entering the tween years, sprinting beyond babyhood and leaving behind them a trail of books, toys and stuffed animals. We were recently the recipients of several lovely items, including a stack of books. You never know what story will resonate with your child. Sometimes it’s a caterpillar who eats everything in sight until he makes a cocoon around himself and bursts forth as a butterfly, and other times, it’s a simplistic reader featuring Lightning McQueen. For whatever reason, my son Joseph fell in love with the timeless Gingerbread Man story, and asked to listen to it night and day for weeks. It was inevitable. We must make gingerbread.
We invited his cousins over, and the children mixed, rolled, floured and cut dozens upon dozens of gingerbread men and women. We decorated some, and left others as unadorned canvases. This recipe makes 3 dozen–enough to enjoy AND contribute to a school party or bake sale.
5 to 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium until smooth. Add the molasses and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture 1 cup at a time, blending until smooth. The dough should gather into a semifirm mass. (If it’s not firm, add another ¼ to ½ cup flour, but not enough to make it crumbly.)
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Flatten into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. Preheat oven to 350° F. On a floured surface, roll each disk to 1/8 inch thick. (1/8 inch makes a crisp snap cookie, 1/4 inch gives it a soft center with crispy edges.)
Use gingerbread-man cutters to make shapes. Transfer them to a large, parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake until firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly before transferring to a rack. Decorate, if desired. Yield: Makes approximately 3 dozen medium gingerbread men (and women).
NUTRITION PER SERVING: CALORIES 164(29% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 3g); CHOLESTEROL 19mg; CALCIUM 32mg; CARBOHYDRATE 27g; SODIUM 92mg; PROTEIN 2mg; FIBER 1g; IRON 2mg