Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Almost Edible Gingerbread Men!

Every year, I make gingerbread men (and women, bears, and stars) when my whole family gets together. It's one of our little traditions, right up there with staying up until 3 am and watching movies.
Every year, my gingerbread men get lavishly decorated by all the cousins, bedecked with gallons of frosting and buckets of candy.
And every year, they go largely uneaten.
This may have something to do with their ability to chip teeth. Hmmmm.
So I set out this year to find a new, better recipe than the one I'd been using. I searched high and low (online, for 20 minutes) to find the best of the best.
I came back from my quest with two recipes. Only one proved to be a winner. Let me warn you right now- this is going to be a lengthy post.
Before the results, let's look at the recipes themselves! And some photos!

Recipe A: From Elise.com
# 3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
# 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
# 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature, softened)
# 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
# 2 teaspoons ground ginger
# 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
# 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
# 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
# 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
# 1/2 teaspoon salt
# 1 large egg
# 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

Recipie B: From All Recipes.com - Colonial Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies
· 1 cup white sugar

· 2 teaspoons ground ginger

· 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

· 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

· 1/2 teaspoon salt

· 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

· 1 cup margarine, melted

· 1/2 cup evaporated milk

· 1 cup unsulfured molasses

· 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

· 3/4 teaspoon lemon extract

· 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Can you guess which one works? Oh, the suspense!
(For the actual cooking directions, hop over to the original sites.)
The First Batch, (Elise.com, hereafter referred to as "Batch A") was tough to work with- it required a minimum of one hour chilling time, which always makes things FUN.
After that, the dough was sticky, it tore easily, and was just generally nasty to work with. I think it needed more flour.
The Colonial Williamsburg recipe (batch B), on the other hand, was a dream to work with. It called for no chilling at all, and it was super easy to work with the dough. (I think I added 2 more cups of flour than they originally called for)

The exciting conclusion!!!
The clear winner is...the first batch, the recipe from Elise.com! The cookies had good flavor, and they were actually sort of soft! Wow! Amazing!
The clear LOOSER was the Colonial Williamsburg recipe. The cookies were awful, hard as rocks, dry as bones, as unappealing as tired cliches. Inedible, and even worse than my old recipe (Which calls for an astounding 7 cups of flour, by the way) (Also: Questions about the "Colonial Williamsburg" recipe: So, they had margarine back then, did they? And evaporated milk as well? And I bet lemon extract was super easy to get a hold of.)
So there you have it. Next time you think to yourself, "Self, I would really like some nice, chewy gingerbread cookies.", think about buying them from a store. Because making them at home seems to be darn near impossible.

p.s.: If anyone has a better recipe, do tell! I am on the hunt.


AprilDawn said...

OOhh I'm going to dig out THREE recipes for you. It may take a day to get them from my mum/grandmother. They are my great grandmother's recipes.

The first is a thin, chewy cookie, not crisp unless you burn them (as a kid I rather liked the burnt ones. Weird child) She made these for me and my mum.

The second is a THICK and soft, typical round molasses cookie. She made these for my dad haha.

The third is her amazing, famous around town gingerbread man recipe. She made 1000's of these each year from Halloween to Christmas for kids in the neighbourhood (twenty years ago you could give cookies to the kids without being charged with anything). They are slightly soft, slightly chewy, this most perfectly melt in your mouth goodness that leaves you asking for more :)

I'll see what I can do!


moogan said...

the cookies do look lovingly homemade despite how they may have tasted.
I'll definately keep my local grocery in mind when attempting ginger bread in the future

Amy C Evans said...

hey there, busy lady. congrats on being finito wit your days of beige. and kudos on the gingerbread cookie decorating! they're so...you! i've never made g-bread cookies so, unfortunately, i cannot share a recipe. but i am inspired. perhaps next year...

jane elliot said...

This is funny since I was on here looking for pointers on how to make my cookies a little tougher! Last year I lost a lot of them to soft breakage. My guess is that I used too much molasses and butter. They were deeeeeeeelish though! I once found the ultimate recipe - I moved a couple of times, and now... the magazine with the recipe is gone! It was just right in spices, texture and hardness. I am on a mad hunt to find it and will share if I do.

Absolutely Small said...

Oh, I'd love to see that recipe! Squishy cookies are my favorite. Please do share!


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