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Weekend Baking – Gingerbread People

A wet, humid, winter chill has settled over Hong Kong, and what better way to bring on that rosy Christmas glow than the warm, soothing hues of ginger and cinnamon?  It’s not the holiday seasons for me unless I’ve had my first bite of a smily gingerbread man.  The combination of rich molasses, brown sugar and holiday spices permeates cheer and good tidings, and puts an extra spring to my steps.  

Gingerbread is somewhat of an acquired taste, as I hated it the first time I tried it in Canada.  To a newly arrived immigrant Chinese kid, the flavours were just bizarre.  But good things have a way of growing on you, and I learned to love, and even crave, this delicious holiday tradition.

This week, I made my first attempt at baking these little gingerbread men (and women!) at home.  I must say, for a first timer, they turned out pretty well!  

I researched several recipes and pieced together elements that work.  I hope this recipe brings you and your family cozy holiday cheer.

What you’ll need (makes around 10 – 12 cookies):

For the gingerbread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbls ground ginger 
  • 1 tbls ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup molasses (you can find this at Oliver’s)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbls milk
For royal icing

  • 1 tbls meringue power (you can find this at CitySuper)
  • 1.3 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbls warm water

*I prefer cookies with less sugar, so please feel free to increase the sugar if you have a real sweet-tooth

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a bowl.  Mix well.

Cream room temperature butter with brown sugar.

Whisk in egg and milk.  Make sure to beat these ingredients together until batter is creamy.

Pour molasses into the wet mixture.  I coat the measuring cup with oil beforehand so the molasses slide out easily.

Mix well

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture slowly, portion by portion.

The final dough should have a pliable consistency.  

Divide the dough in half, and form each portion into a flattened disc.  Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight to stiffen the dough.  (I made mine the day before)

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out to around 1/4 inch thick.  If you like crispy cookies, just roll them out thinner.  I prefer moist, soft cookies.

Make little people shapes with cookie cutters.  Bake them for 8-12 minutes (depending on your oven) in the middle rack, and rotate the baking sheet mid-way.  Check the cookies – they are done when the centre is slightly yielding to touch.

(Below) uncooked cookies

Cooked cookies

Time to decorate!  

Sift together icing sugar, meringue powder, and mix in warm water.  Whip until the icing forms stiff peaks.  I don’t have a mixer so did it all by hand – after 10 minutes of whipping, my arm was about to fall off.  Remember, royal icing will dry hard, so the little faces / patterns will not smear.  

I use a cup to stablize the piping bag while I fill it with icing.

Let the fun begin!

Be creative!  

Bon Appetit!

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