When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Gingerbread cookies times two
When I was little, my mom used to make the most wonderful gingerbread cookies at Christmas time. She must have spent hours rolling dough, cutting out boys and girls, baking them, and painstakingly decorating them better than any gingerbread people I have ever seen since -- they all had unique faces, hair, and intricately striped and polka-dotted clothes made from different coloured icings. It was truly a labour of love on her part, and one she continued unfailingly, even after my brother Frank, before leaving for school, once secretly ate a good part of the batch she had made for his class, and even after our dog ate all the gingerbreads she could reach from the bottom half of the Christmas tree. (Many years later, Frank has confessed that he and our brother Jamie may have helped the dog eat those gingerbreads too!) Obviously, the cookies were a real favourite with my brothers and I, and when I think about the happy Christmases of my childhood, I will always remember that very special treat.
It was important to me to continue the gingerbread cookie tradition once I had children of my own. However, after one Christmas of attempting to decorate the sweet boys and girls with icing details, I decided from then on I would find other ways to show my boys I love them! I had neither the talent nor the patience of my mom for the intricate icing work. We decorate our cookies more simply now, and they're not as fantastic as my mom's were, but Noah and Will love their job of adding the embellishments to each ginger person's outfit. This is the traditional recipe I've used for many years; it always yields yummy, kid-friendly results.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup molasses
1 or 2 eggs
In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add in butter, molasses and egg(s) and mix until completely blended. Cover and refrigerate dough for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into boy and girl shapes with cookie cutters. Decorate cutouts with mini m&ms or other goodies.
Place cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet about 2" apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool and serve.
I was thrilled last year to discover a recipe for gluten-free gingerbread cookies made from almond flour over at Elana's Pantry. This meant that Will could still enjoy a version of his favourite holiday treat in spite of his newly discovered food sensitivities. These gingerbreads are absolutely delicious -- sweet and chewy and full of spicy goodness. I made a few modifications to Elana's recipe to accommodate our needs and tastes.
5 cups blanched almond flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup yacon syrup (I couldn't find this ingredient, so I substituted another 1/2 cup of agave nectar instead and the cookies turned out beautifully.)
2 eggs (If egg allergies are a concern, you can substitute 2 tbsp of arrowroot powder in the dry ingredients and 6 tbsp water in the wet ingredients instead.)
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
In a large bowl, combine almond flour, spices, salt and baking soda. In a smaller bowl, mix together grapeseed oil, agave, vanilla, yacon, eggs, and lemon zest. Stir wet ingredients into dry. Chill dough in freezer for 1 to 2 hours.
Roll out dough between two pieces of parchment paper to 1/4" thick. Remove top sheet of parchment paper and cut out cookies using cookie cutters. Decorate cut-outs with nuts and dried fruit.
Transfer cutouts with a spatula to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and serve.
We used fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries to decorate our cookies, but you could also use raisins, almond slivers, or pieces of dried citrus rind to add faces and fashions to your gingerbread people.
With some helping hands yesterday, I finished baking all of our gingerbread cookies for this season. We're looking forward to the upcoming days when we'll enjoy them with a cup of hot cocoa after an afternoon of skating, or share them with family and friends who come to visit over the holidays. I know the little gingerbread people will continue to be part of happy holiday memories in our family for many Christmases to come.