Guest Author - Launa Stout
A fun Christmas tradition at our house is to make gingerbread friends. Some are gingerbread boys, some are gingerbread girls, and sometimes we even get carried away and cut out trees, stars, bells and reindeer, and have even been known to use just about any other cookie cutters that we have on hand.
Once we get started, it is hard to curb the enthusiasm. We know that we will decorate the boys and girls as they will be our friends, but the kids have found out that any cookies that are not friends will be fair game to eat…so we make lots of other shapes, and not just gingerbread boys and girls.
We usually calendar when we want to decorate the cookies so that we can be sure to make the dough the day before and keep it in the fridge.
Gather these ingredients:
• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1 1/2 cups white sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest (fresh is best)
• 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
Follow these simple steps:
1. In a large bowl cream the butter and the sugar together.
2. Add the egg and mix well.
3. Mix in the orange peel and dark corn syrup.
4. Add the flour, baking soda, spices and salt, and mix until well combined.
5. Completely cover the bowl, or put the cookie dough in a Ziploc plastic bag.
Chill dough for at least 2 hours, but I find it works best to chill overnight.
The next day:
6. Turn the oven on to preheat at 375 degrees F.
7. Grease the cookie sheets.
8. On a lightly flour and powdered sugar surface, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick.
9. Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters.
10. If using intricate shaped cookie cutters roll the dough on the cookie sheets and cut out shapes and pull away the extra dough.
11. Or place cookies 1 inch apart on the greased cookie sheets.
12. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven.
13. You will know the cookies are done when they are firm and lightly toasted on the edges.
Pipe white frosting around the outside edge and add eyes and buttons…. Or totally decorate and dress them all in different items of clothing depending on the colors of frosting and sprinkles that you have on hand.
Tips that we like to follow--- try them and your family can also make some really great Gingerbread Friends :
o Chill the dough before rolling it out. It is much easier to work with after it's been refrigerated for at least an hour. (Overnight is best!)
o Use a chilled rolling pin if possible- mine is marble and I put it in the fridge, but at grandma’s house her rolling pin is made of wood so we don’t get it colder.
o Roll the dough out on a surface lightly dusted with a mixture of flour and powdered sugar or between pieces of wax paper or parchment paper.
o To keep the cookie cutters from sticking to the dough dip them in flour.
o Let gingerbread friends cool completely before you try to decorate them.
o If you want to do things really simple just use glaze of confectioners' sugar and milk. It is also fun to add some orange zest to enhance the flavor.
o You can use liquid or paste food coloring to make brighter colors.
o Before the icing dries think about other decorations you can add such as colored sugar, shredded coconut, toasted sliced almonds, chocolate and rainbow sprinkles, edible glitter, multicolored nonpareils, button candies, mini semisweet baking bits and dried currants.
o Let decorated cookies stand until icing sets, about 2 hours. (This is the hardest part because the kids want to start playing with their new friends!)
o You can make the cookies up to 2 weeks ahead and store them in single layers between sheets of waxed paper in airtight containers.
Enjoy a new tradition with your family!