|Our army of Gingerbread Boys at GRAM'S FAM Reunion last year.|
When the trees have shivered in an autumnal chill, and their leaves have trembled themselves from their branches…when I’ve rolled the casement window knobs and sealed the locks against the blast of wind from the east canyon…when the boiler in our basement grumbles and shakes, and the vents in the floor belch out the dust that has gathered in the temperate weeks of Indian summer…then I search the skies for that swirl of grey and inhale as I step out on my front porch, knowing that this would be the day. First Snow. Virgin flakes sift from the heavens, dying like the front lines in a massive battle as they hit the ground. The surface is not yet cold enough to sustain them. By mid-morning, however, the grass has taken on a pearly sheen, and I know I must prepare. By the time school gets out we have a couple inches. The counter is cleaned off, and the molasses and shortening sit beside the sugars and flours and powdered ginger. I heft my workhorse AEG mixer over onto the island because the little hands of my little Loves will be measuring and mixing and it is easier if they kneel on the stools over there.
Traditionally, in our house, we make Gingerbread Boys on the first snow of the year. We hope our schedules cooperate. My grandchildren, if they are close enough to make the trek, stand in a row while I sort through their aprons and chefs hats. I tie them to their necks and waists, tuck their hair under their caps, and we all wash our hands with soap. The youngest ones are strapped into their high chairs with Cheerios and the plastic set of Dwarves to humor them. The mid range Littles scramble for the closest stools, and the older ones huddle behind them. We measure, and pour and mix and chill. We roll and cut and bake and frost. “Oh goodness…too BAD, (one of us moans). He broke his arm!” We all sympathize as we rip appendages from the poor fellow, gobbling him up before he is properly adorned with raisin buttons.
My Gingerbread Boy recipe is hand written, in the lovely script of my mother. I am ageless when I place that recipe on my counter. I am thirteen and I am thirty and I am fifty six and I am ninety. My mother’s long slender fingers press the raisins into her thick buttercream frosting and I imitate her. And my children imitate me, and their children repeat after them until we form a long eternal chain of deliciousness.
It’s been such a tepid winter here in Utah this year. Almost no snow since Christmas. My family and friends back east are envious. And I must admit it has been lovely to have so much sun. But there is just as much winter weariness here. And flu bugs and coughing abounds here. I think we need a hefty snowstorm to freeze it all off! Come on, Snow, make yourself known! It is nearly March, and my Littles are waiting!
|I have a good supply of these vintage cutters.|
GRAM’S GINGERBREAD BOYS
½ cup shortening
½ c soft butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup molasses (look for Grandma’s brand- Mild)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vinegar
7 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ginger
4 tsp. cinnamon
Cream shortening and butter, add sugar gradually and cream thoroughly. Blend in molasses. Sift 2.5 cups flour with soda, spices, and salt and stir into syrup mixture. Add vinegar and remaining flour, alternating with buttermilk. Chill dough well. Roll out .25 inch thick on a lightly floured board and cut out into shapes. Roll the cookie dough thicker for soft gingerbread and thinner for crisper cookies.
I divide dough in half and put into a plastic food storage bag, sort of flatten it out and stack the bags in the fridge or on the porch in the cold winter. It’s easier to roll out when prepared that way. I’ve made these without chilling and it’s fine, but chilling makes them better. Chill for even a half hour outside in the winter, each bag separated from the other for quicker chilling. Roll one part of dough at a time on floured board to ¼ to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out gingerbread boys with sharp cookie cutter. Dip cutter into flour before cutting. Place on greased cookie sheets (or use parchment paper) and bake at 375 degrees F about 6 to 10 minutes. Cookies are done when you gently press your finger into a tummy and it sort of springs back up. Unless you want really crisp cookies, don’t overcook. Cool slightly and remove. Decorate with white buttercream frosting and raisins.
1 1/2 cubes butter, softened (3/4 c)
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T pure vanilla
dash of salt
1-3 T milk, cream or warm water (add gradually to get correct consistency.)
Beat well till fluffy.