Matt Williams and Amanda Holpuch in New York guardian.co.uk,
One of my favorite holiday traditions is making gingerbread people and a gingerbread house with my kids. It's a great way to spend time together, and it uses up the last of the Halloween candy.
Give yourself several days to complete this project. We usually make the dough on Friday night, bake on Saturday morning, decorate the people and assemble the house on Saturday afternoon, and decorate the house on Sunday afternoon. We generally do this the weekend before Christmas, and amazingly, the children in my life tell me it still tastes great when we eat it on the 24th. I'll have to take their word for it.
The gingerbread cookie dough is my Aunt Mary's. I've been making and eating gingerbread boys and girls since before I can remember. Their one of the required cookies at our house. They make it feel like Christmas, and they return me to my own childhood.
If you don't have a gingerbread dough that you love, use this one. I've given it to several friends over the years and they always say that it makes the best gingerbread cookies they've ever eaten.
Making and decorating the gingerbread house does create quiet a mess in your kitchen. Luckily, my children now know how to use a broom, and I sort of give up on house cleaning the week and a half before Christmas. One of my favorite gifts from the Woodsman is a full house cleaning - which he does on Christmas Eve afternoon, right before guests arrive for dinner. This means the house is clean, clutter free and relaxing for Christmas Day, so I don't sweat the baking mess. Time with my giggly children is so worth the crunch of sugar underfoot.
Make the dough the night before you plan to bake. It needs to chill for at least 12 hours.
Aunt Mary's Gingerbread Cookies1/3 c. Crisco
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 cups dark molasses
cream together using an electric mixer
In another bowl, sift together
2 3/4 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ginger (fresh works best - but powdered is OK too)
2 t. cinnamon
Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix.
Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick.
Bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes. They should be firm and bouncy when they are done.
Roll the dough out 1/8 inch thick (I put a bit of flour and sugar down on the counter first). Farmer Dan made these rolling boards for me years ago. They ensure that my dough doesn't get too thin.
We always take our house to church on Christmas Eve for our congregational cookie share. It's great - other kids help eat all that sugar (sorry church friend moms).
One year my kiddos are going to be too old to do this, but for now I'll savor this afternoon.