For years, my Auntie Lilly -- who lives in northern Wisconsin -- sent us a tin of homemade gingerbread just before Christmas. She made individual gingerbread men and labeled them so that each of my daughters knew which one was hers. One memorable year when the girls were young, and the much-anticipated package from Auntie Lill came late in the day (too late to eat without spoiling dinner), I set the collection of decorated trees, and the personalized men out on a platter to be enjoyed after dinner. The kids couldn't wait.
My husband came home from work right on time, but I had my back to him. Hungry, and spying the platter, he reached for one of the men and bit off its head. My middle daughter, Sara, whose gingerbread man this was and who had been waiting very patiently all day, started to cry. "Dad's eating my gingerbread man!"
He stopped before consuming the entire cookie, but the head was long gone. Poor Sara. I called my aunt and she got a huge chuckle out of knowing how much we love her gingerbread. She whipped up a new batch and sent it to Sara. And after Sara claimed her new man, she shared with us all.
We laugh about it now, but my poor husband will never live down his "Dad ate my gingerbread man head!" reputation.
My aunt is 88 now. Although she's active and chatty and still just as fun to talk with as ever, she's not able to make her gingerbread anymore. But she gave me her recipe! I make it every year. I prefer to make the trees rather than gingerbread men. Way more icing goes on trees!
I have no idea where she got this recipe originally, but she's tweaked it over the years and I have too. By the way, this makes a lot of gingerbread. You can halve it if you prefer.
2/3 cup Crisco shortening
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I prefer dark)
1 1/3 cup molasses. I like Grandma's brand, robust
In a separate bowl, mix:
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Add the dry ingredients to the shortening/sugar/molasses bowl and mix thoroughly. I generally use
my dough hook.
Roll dough out onto a floured surface and cut into desired shapes. I prefer thick gingerbread, so I roll it to about 1/4 inch thick or better. Place shapes on a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 7-9 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
They look good, and taste great plain, but I prefer them iced...
The icing is the simplest one I ever used and I'm sure you have all used this one before, too...
Depending on how many cookies you intend to frost, you can decide how much icing to make. For this recipe I start with 3 cups powdered sugar. I add just enough water to make a loose paste... and then I add my food coloring. The simplest thing ever, and it's delicious!
Simple things are often the best... and that's the sentiment our family will be celebrating this Christmas as we spend time together.
I hope you have been enjoying the entire holiday season... whether you celebrate Hannukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or no specific date at all... I hope you have been taking in the joys of the season and all the goodness of 2009.
Now - before I sign off - please don't forget to send us a Secret Ingredient for our January contest. You might win a great prize... and I'll give you a hint about that... it involves Chocolate!! But we need your secret ingredients, so please send them to MysteryLoversKitchen@gmail.com
I'll also give you another hint... I'm running another, special contest in January, to celebrate the release of Eggsecutive Orders. I'll be asking you to tell me where you've spotted Eggsecutive Orders - in bookstores, online, etc. And I'll be asking you to e-mail me personally with your answers... So keep your eyes open now, and on January 5th, tune in here and I'll tell you how to enter! It'll be super easy. And that prize? A $25 bookstore gift certificate ;-)