Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Cookies Episode 1: Gingerbread

I've never made gingerbread men before. I've always wanted too, but we never had a real gingerbread man cookie cutter. We had a gingerbread policeman (don't ask), but no regular man. So a few years ago I bought a cute little cookie cutter with the best intentions of turning out a full army of the little guys. Never happened. I had no recipe, a crowded, crazy pre-christmas schedule, a family of mice living in my stove, [insert excuse of your making here], etc. But this year, I was determined. Some kind friends pointed me in the direction of a gingerbread recipe that would actually taste spicy and gingery. And so I was finally able to have my little family of gingermen, along with whales, crabs and of course, the traditional Christmas octopus.

I used Martha Stewart's recipe: Basic Gingerbread Cookies. The recipe was great with one little tiny caveat. Whatever you do, DO NOT bake these for 20 minutes. I used regular cookie cutters, rolled to the proper thickness, and checked the first batch at 15 minutes. They were a bit overdone. I'd recommend 10-12. 20 will most likely set off your smoke alarm, and unless you're hoping to meet a dashing young firefighter for the holidays, I'm recommending you avoid that.

I iced using Royal Icing, truly a fascinating substance. This recipe makes about enough to tackle any home spackling projects you might have lined up, and will dry sufficiently hard for that use as well. If you have no experience using royal icing, I would advise much practice cutting holes in your plastic bags and squeezing things through the tip, because we eventually scrapped the faux pastry bag idea, poured the stuff in a bowl and applied using skewers as paint brushes.

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