One of Michael’s fondest memories of Christmas was making gingerbread men and cutout cookies. For as long as he can remember, his family made them every year, even during the teenage years when it was uncool and he and his brothers would grouse, all the while secretly enjoying it. His mom still makes these every year, and now it’s our turn to carry on the tradition with our boys.
Originally the gingerbread men were decorated with frosting but gradually that changed because the decorations didn’t look as nice after the cookies had been stacked and stored. So now his mom makes rustic, minimalist ginger bread men, with just raisins and cherries for eyes and mouth, and we are following that tradition, at least for now. If you plan to decorate, her frosting recipe is included.
This year instead of using ground cloves, I ground my own right before adding them to the bowl, and the fragrance was outstanding. I used a granite mortar and pestle (found cheap at Ross, only $14.99) and ground the cloves as finely as possible. There was a little left over, which I put into a tin for the next time.
Because these cookies are a long-standing tradition in Michael’s family, I’m sending this post to Christmas Cookies from Around the World, a fun event created by Susan of Food Blogga. She has an amazing list of cookies complete with a map showing where all the cookies have come from!
You can find more of our family Christmas cookies here.
[Updated November 30, 2009.]
- 2/3 cup (257 g) shortening
- 1/2 cup (55 g) packed light brown sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) molasses
- 3 cups (360 g) sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- raisins, cut in half
- candied cherries, cut into slivers
- DECORATING ICING
- 2 cups (260 g) confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- food colors, red & green (optional)
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream together the shortening, brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs and molasses and mix well.
- In the medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir into the egg and sugar mixture until everything is mixed well.
- Divide into four pieces and shape into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375° F/190° C.
- Remove the plastic and placed the disk on a floured work surface. Roll to about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Cut with the ginger bread man cutter and place on the prepared baking sheets. Dip the cookies cutter in the flour between cuts. Use all the dough, then take any remaining and make another disk. Roll it out and cut more cookies. Make cookies blobs with any small bits of remaining dough.
- Press the cut raisins into the faces for eyes and noses, and use the candied cherry slivers for a mouth.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
- ICING: In the other medium bowl, stir the confectioners sugar and water. Divide into smaller bowls and add food coloring, then stir. Add more food coloring and stir until you have the desired colors. Spoon into plastic bags with attached decorating tips and pipe on decorations (mittens, hats, buttons, outline the cookies). Allow the icing to harden and set up before wrapping the cookies.
stand mixer with paddle attachment
2 medium bowls
ginger bread man cookie cutter
small bowl with flour (for dipping the cutter)
2 baking sheets, lined with parchment paper or lightly greased
small bowls (optional)
decorating tips and plastic bags (optional)