Friday, December 3, 2010

Gingerbread Fun

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the kids are already thinking about the next holiday. Every Halloween provides us with a stash of gems for our gingerbread house! I always leave it up to the kids to create their little holiday home. It’s tasty work, sampling all the candy as they progress. If  you don't plan on eating the house at all, then I would just get a cheap ready-made kit for the house. 

The molasses gives the cookie its dark color. I prefer blackstrap which is the darkest and not so sweet. This recipe is enough for a 7" x 7" house with a roof and a some gingerbread people. Halve the recipe if you only want some cookies.

8 oz (230g) unsalted butter or Earth Balance vegan shortening, softened
1 cup (220g) light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup (240ml) molasses
2 free-range eggs
5-6 cups (600g-720g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves

  • Cream butter (or shortening) and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. 
  • Add molasses and egg. Continue beating to combine. 
  • In a separate bowl, sift together 5 cups (600g) of the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. 
  • Gradually add the sifted ingredients to the wet mixture, blending well after each addition. If the dough looks wet, add the rest of the flour a little at a time, kneading the dough to incorporate.
  • Divide into two flattened disks. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour. 
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4" (8mm) thick and cut into shapes. Knead scraps and roll and make more cookies until dough is finished. 
  • Place onto lined baking sheet. 
  • Bake for 11-15 minutes. Check for doneness by pressing on the cookie. If the dough springs back, it’s ready. 
  • Allow cookies to cool completely before decorating. 

1 lb (453g) confectioner’s sugar
3 Tbsp meringue powder
6 Tbsp+ water
1 tsp freshly lemon juice, optional

  • Beat all ingredients at for 7-10 minutes. If too stiff, add another teaspoon of water. You want it to be like a thick, thick glue, not runny.
  • Scrape icing into one corner of a large Ziploc bag (it helps to have one bottom corner of the bag resting in measuring jug, so that it doesn't shift while pouring the icing in), when all transferred, try to squish all the icing into that corner, and close the Ziploc, making sure there is no excess air trapped inside. Bunch up the top of the bag and tie it up with a rubber band, so that you have a firm, cone-like bag of icing. Cut a small corner off to start decorating. The icing will keep at room temperature for two weeks, or longer if stored in the fridge. If cold, let soften slightly before using.

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