Gingerbread Men and Women — the Holidays’ Welcome Partiers

Posted by on Dec 10, 2010

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What would the holidays be without gingerbread girls and boys? These yummy cookies are fun to make, eat, and give away. Invite a group of friends over and have a Gingerbread People party with this recipe from "Kids in the Holiday Kitchen" by Jessica Strand and Tammy Massman-Johnson.

The Royal Icing used in this recipe dries very hard, making these cookies suitable for packaging or wrapping to freeze. We've created a recipe using meringue powder rather than egg whites, as it is more suitable for small children (for food safety). Meringue powder can be purchased in the baking supply section of many craft stores or at Wilton

Christmas Buddies: Gingerbread People 
Makes about 2 dozen cookies 

6 cups sifted all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 cup packed dark brown sugar 
4 teaspoons ground ginger 
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cloves 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper 
1 cup unsulfured molasses 
2 large eggs 

Royal Icing 
1 pound (about 4 cups) powdered sugar 
6 tablespoons warm water 
3 tablespoons meringue powder 
Piping bag with small round tip 
Decorations, such as Red Hots, mini chocolate chips, colored sugar, chocolate sprinkles, etc. 

To make the Gingerbread People: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In a mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the ginger, cloves, salt and pepper, then the molasses and eggs. 

Add the flour mixture; combine on low speed just until the flour is incorporated. Divide the dough into thirds, and wrap each piece in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

On a floured work surface, roll the dough 1/8 inch thick. 

Using cookie cutters of various sizes, cut out your gingerbread people! 

Transfer to ungreased baking sheets, and bake until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on wire racks for 20 minutes before decorating. 

To make the Royal Icing: In a mixer, beat the powdered sugar, water and meringue powder on low speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating until the icing forms soft peaks, 6 to 8 minutes. For a thinner icing, add 1/2 teaspoon additional water at a time until you reach your desired consistency. 

Working quickly, transfer enough icing to fill half a piping bag. Twist the bag to close and secure with a kitchen tie. Cover the surface of the rest of the icing with a slightly damp kitchen towel until refilling the bag, or cover and refrigerate for later use. (Makes 3 cups) 

Decorating your Christmas buddy can be as simple as a few dots of royal icing, or as fancy as you like. Red Hots and mini chocolate chips are old favorites, while colored sugar sprinkled on top of freshly piped icing can be used to add wonderful color and texture. Cookies will take approximately 30 minutes to set. Store cookies in a large Tupperware container by laying them flat between sheets of parchment or waxed paper. 

At room temperature, they will last up to 1 week; refrigerated, 2 weeks; and frozen, 3 months.

Baking gingerbread cookies
Excerpted by permission from "Kids in the Holiday Kitchen" by Jessica Strand and Tammy Massman-Johnson. Published by Chronicle Books.

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