Gingerbread And Gingersnaps

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Holiday Baking With Littles

I’ve always loved to celebrate special events and times but over the years (ok, fine; decades), my ideas about what makes a holiday delightful have changed a much as I have myself. Though glitz and glitter generally leave me chilly, I must admit that receiving an astonishing surprise birthday cake in triple-toned, puffy frosting with edible glitter on top was kind of a game changer. Really, that amazing cake!

My grandkids (now 5 and nearly 3) love to bake, and we make bread of some kind nearly every week. I’ve developed several kid-proof bread recipes that can take over zealous kneading and pummeling or almost no kneading in stride, and we usually make bread dinosaurs and bread bunnies and bread asteroids as well as lots and lots of cinnamon rolls. However, after reading some favorite books about Scandinavian children’s holiday activities this weekend, they decided we should make gingerbread.

Sculptable Gingerfolk

When my kids were little, I developed a recipe for gingerbread that was sort of like play dough; instead of rolling out flat and using cookie cutters, kids could roll balls of dough for heads and bodies and roll little logs for arms and legs. My original recipe used soft butter, but since my granddaughter is dairy sensitive, I swapped for avocado oil, which has a light but subtly butter flavor. I also use a flour blend, because while using whole wheat pastry flour alone gives cookies a very tender crumb, it tends to make for overly dry baked goods. A half-and-half blend works fine and lends a richer flavor to pretty much anything. I imagine this recipe would also work with a gluten-free flour mix but you’d need to add water carefully to get the right consistency.

Decorations can be made with raisins or currents (smaller, thus better for buttons and eyes) as well as various revolting little hard candies which always look better than they taste. You can of course frost these, glaze them with a brushable mixture of lemon juice and powdered sugar, or eat them plain. Alas, I have not yet brought myself to buy edible glitter but I feel sure the day is coming…

Soft (Vegan!) Gingerbread People

1-3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1-3/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon each ground ginger, cinnamon and coriander
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup avocado or any cooking oil
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Sift dry ingredients together, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, brown sugar and molasses with 1/4 cup boiling water. Add flour in 3 parts, adding a little more water 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to make a firm dough. Roll into a ball and lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Divide dough into 10-12 pieces, then use each piece to shape a ginger-person or snow-person. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes; when done, cookies will feel slightly springy to the touch. Cool on a rack before frosting. Makes 10-12 gingerfolk.

Make It Snappy

Most adults of my acquaintance appreciate those thin, very gingery cookies that need to be rolled out and cut. These ginger cookies are quite snappy and have a lively, even zesty flavor but are made by rolling little dough balls between your palms, which is much easier and less messy. Little bits of crystalized ginger add extra zip and a light dusting of flaked sea salt (optional) makes them brighter still. They freeze beautifully if well wrapped and vanish fast if not.

Gingery Snaps

2 cups unbleached white flour
1-3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup minced crystalized ginger
zest from an organic orange
1/2 teaspoon Malden or any finishing salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Sift dry ingredients together, set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, then stir in eggs, molasses, vinegar, orange zest and crystalized ginger. Add sifted ingredients and blend well. Roll into small balls (under an inch) and place several inches apart on a rimmed baking sheet (they spread quite a bit). Bake for 10-12 minutes, until set and crinkled on top. Makes about 100 cookies. Serves at least one.



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One Response to Gingerbread And Gingersnaps

  1. Diane Hooper says:

    Your birthday cake is beautiful!
    I enjoy your commentary and appreciate the recipes.
    Hard to believe we are already into the holiday swing, one fast moving year!

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