Hello everyone! I’m thrilled to introduce you to the newly gussied-up devil & egg food blog—same food and cooking site written by yours truly, but with lots of cool new things to look at and click. If you’re a longtime friend and visitor you may know that I’ve been working on a redesign of the blog to make it even more awesome than before. The spirit of my original blog hopefully remains, but with cool new bells and whistles and some lovely drawings and features by my creative guru/designer Ava Savitsky. So I hope you love it, read it, comment freely (and honestly), and tell all of your friends who love food, cooking, eating, or just looking at pretty photos of gingerbread men, to check it out!
Which leads me to today’s post…
In honor of the holidays I thought that the debut post should be about that most traditional of cookies: the gingerbread man. Or rather, gingerbread men and ladies (because why should the dudes get all the attention?). Christmas can seem like a mandatory sentence to bake and decorate cookies (I’m talking about you, inventor of the cookie swap), but I don’t mind if I can get the family involved and the result is a rich, golden, ginger-clove-allspice man-shaped cookie. In my mind, gingerbread trumps sugar cookie any day. And all of those gingerbread house kits for sale now, containing a mylar bag of instant dough and impossible to follow directions (yes, Belle made me buy one) have nothing on a fresh baked cookie from scratch, with candies that haven’tt been glued on permanently with icing that resembles Elmer’s.
For this recipe I decided to try something old/something new: The Gourmet Cookie Book—The Single Best Recipe From Each Year 1941-2009 has been widely gushed about as probably one of the best cookbook gifts of the season, and it is. It has a bold design featuring graphic photos of cookies (some look like they’re about to perform in a synchronized swimming routine), each accompanied by a recipe on the opposite page (from 1966 apricot chews to 2001 cranberry turtle bars). I make few cookies during the year, but when I do, I want to make sure they’re better than good and not a lot of heartache to make. The gingerbread man recipe (from 1959) is appealing because of it’s simplicity (although, to play devil’s advocate, maybe too simple…the recipe notes mention flouring the cookie cutters but do not mention flouring the rolling pin or rolling our surface, two things that are must. But maybe everyone knew that in 1959.)
Now you may normally make gingerbread men with white sugar (royal) icing for the decoration, but I decided to skip all that. The thought of putting white adhesive icing in the hands of Belle and Conor and then asking them to draw perfect lines and buttons, would not only be unrealistic, but would put my sanity and the condition of the kitchen in serious peril. Why even go there? Instead I went with different colored sanding sugar, sprinkles, raisins, and M&Ms. They cut the shapes out themselves, I transferred them to the buttered baking sheets, and then they were free to decorate at will.
The most important thing about making cookies with your fam for the holidays (besides making sure to chill your dough, preferably overnight, and flouring your rolling pin) is to just relax, and not get all anal about how they don’t look like something out of Martha Stewart’s kitchen (which is a perfectly gorgeous kitchen, but not a place for children with quick-hardening icing). If there are three raisin eyeballs, so be it. If the wayward sprinkle hair makes gingerbread man look like a bearded Brooklyn hipster, why not? As long as you can keep the sugar and sweets out of their mouths long enough to get them on the cookie your endeavor will be a success.
Here’s Belle’s masterpiece. Yes, her raisin eyeball is drooping into her raisin mouth, and her sprinkle dress seems to have exploded (or shares a stylist with Lady Gaga), but it’s perfectly hers. And even more important, really tasty with a hot chocolate (or hot toddy).
So give them a try–and I look forward to hearing more about your holiday cookie traditions!
Recipe for Gingerbread Men (adapted from Gourmet Magazine)
*a co-worker who happens to be a great amateur baker mentioned adding orange zest to the gingerbread dough which I think would have made a great addition…next time.
-Into a bowl, sift 3 cups all-purpose flour. Add 1 1/2 tsps of baking powder, 1/4 tsp of baking soda, 1 scant tbs. cinnamon, 1 tsp each of ground cloves and ginger, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Sift mixture together. In another bowl, combine 1 cup of brown sugar, 2/3 cup molasses (ordinary, not robust), 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 large beaten egg, and 1/4 tsp of allspice, and mix all together well. Stir the brown-sugar mixture into the dry mixture and knead until all the flour has been worked in.
-Chill the dough for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.
-Divide the dough in half and roll one half at a time (returning the other to the fridge until ready to use), into a sheet 1/3 inch thick. Make sure your surface and rolling pin is lightly floured to prevent sticking.
-Cut out the gingerbread men with a floured cutter. With a spatula, transform the shapes to a buttered baking sheet. Use raisins, candied fruit, colored sugar, M&Ms to make the nose, eyes, buttons, etc, pressing them gently into the dough to stick.
-Bake the men for 12 minutes or until lightly browned (for cookies that are rolled thinner than 1/3 inch they will cook faster so check around 8-10 minutes to make sure the edges aren’t burning). Cool on a wire rack. They will taste great warm but even better with age.