This year our elf, Penelope, made her grand appearance on top of 6 gingerbread houses that she made. My girls were super excited for this. By the end of the month, she was found smashed under a decorated house. This should give you a visual rundown on how I felt this past December.
Every year I host a family Gingerbread decorating workshop at YCA. This year, I branched out to host private parties for kids, corporate events, and even a Gingerbread camp. Let’s just say, I’m happy to retire my rolling pin for a little while. This season I created nearly 100 houses and while MY house turned into a candy factory storing the supplies and decor, the chaos was worth it. There is something so magical about watching kids (and kids at heart) decorate a Gingerbread house. It is the best time to escape into wonderland and let imaginations run wild while enjoying nibbling on candy. I love to help take the frustration out of building the house and let families enjoy the fun part, without the hassle of construction and clean up.
This year I found the perfect book to go along with the Gingerbread fun called Tough Cookie by Edward Hemingway. It is a great story about a little gingerbread man that didn’t fit in because he wasn’t sweet like the other cookies. After he tries to change to be sweet like the others he comes the realization that he isn’t sweet because he isn’t a cookie after all, he is a salt dough ornament.
This book ties in perfectly with our salt dough ornament tradition. Each year the girls make salt dough ornament hand prints. This year they made gingerbread men and the handmade ornaments decorated our Christmas table. If you want to see a darling video of the girls making the dough, check out this post.
This gingerbread cookie recipe is the best that I’ve tried making since it yields a nice chewy cookie. It’s sweet but not too sweet, with the perfect amount of molasses and bite of ginger. If you make this recipe with your kiddos make sure to take the time to let them smell all of the ingredients, especially the spices, as it’s a great way to expose them to new flavors.
Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
51⁄2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1⁄4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
11⁄4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 325º
In large bowl, thoroughly blend shortening and sugar. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla and beat until smooth. In another bowl, sift dry ingredients.
Gradually stir dry ingredients into molasses mixture. When dough becomes too stiff to stir with a spoon, work dough with hands until completely blended.
Separate dough into four balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and chill a minimum of one hour. (Dough can be stored in refrigerator for up to two weeks.)
Place a disk of chilled dough directly on your ungreased baking sheet. Cover dough with plastic wrap and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.
Remove plastic wrap and cut with gingerbread cookie cutter. Remove scraps of dough, leaving gingerbread cut out on the cookie sheet.
Bake for about 10 minutes. Makes approximately 4 dozen gingerbread people cookies.