Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Not the Gum Drop Buttons!

I promised cookie blogging didn't I? OK, cookies that started out as an artform? Check. Delicious food made by monks? Check. (Lager, espresso, champagne, cheese, cookies - those monks certainly hit the high points of food life.) So Gingerbread Cookies. Gingerbread cookies originally began as carvings. Monks would take a big sheet of cookie and carve various Saints and religious motifs. Eventually as spices became less costly and with increased secularization, motifs expanded to include lords, ladies, flowers, soldiers and you guessed it castles. Kind of puts that gingerbread house into perspective, huh?

The title of the post refers to the immortal words of a water-boarded (or would that be milk boarded?) Gingerboy in Shrek. Do you know the Muffin Man? Perhaps they would have gotten around to asking about Gingie the evil gingerbread man from Jasper Fforde Nursery Crime gumshoe The Big Over Easy. We'll never know.

Gingerbread People

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp ground ginger (or 1/4 cup fresh grated)

Stir flour, soda and dry spices together and set aside. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together. Then add molasses and egg. If you used fresh ginger add it now. Slowly add in flour mixture. Cover and chill 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375. On lightly floured surface roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Try cutting shapes as close together as possible, the less you roll and handle dough the better your cookies will turn out. Place 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. bake approx. 6 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms lightly browned. Cool cookies on wire racks. Ice and decorate with cinnamon candies, gumdrops, smashed starlight mints or whatever else you want.

Royal Icing

2 cups sifted powdered sugar
4 tsp meringue powder
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
1/4 cup warm water
food coloring

Combine first three ingredients then add warm water. Beat with mixer on low speed until combined then high speed until stiff about 10 minutes. Separate into thirds. Mix food coloring into the thirds. Pipe on cookies with decorating tip. Or if you have kids let use a ziploc bag with a small hole cut in the corner.

Here is a good link to Gingerbread House making techniques as well as a recipe for good stiff icing cement. Here are some great photos of a Maryland Gingerbread House contest. And Grand Rapids. Carnival of Recipes here, good stuff.

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