We have lots of holiday traditions that we look forward to every December but there is none that we look forward to more than our annual Gingerbread Baby making day with our niece & nephew. We document the fun every year in their "Gingerbread Baby Scrapbook" but this is the first year I can document it here for the whole family as well.
The tradition actually started before our niece was even born. At the time I was a first grade teacher who had a serious passion and addiction to children's literature. (Its one of the things I miss most about not being in the classroom anymore....all of the wonderful books to be read.) My sister was pregnant with Ally and I got "Ally" ,who wouldn't be born until July, Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby book. Knowing that one day I would read that book with my soon to come niece and I couldn't wait until we could bake our own gingerbread babies together.
Since Ally was old enough to cook we've been making Gingerbread babies every year. We figured out this was our 11th year of the tradition. Of course Spencer is now part of the tradition as well. It's usually part of a sleepover on most years, and if we are lucky even a 2 niter sleepover.
This year they arrived on the evening of 20th (G&I's last day of school), we grilled some Christmas tree shaped pizza's for dinner.
Just for a little additional festivity.
The next morning after a walk up to get their favorite cinnamon rolls at Met Market we came back and got started.
This year I decided we'd use the Betty Crocker Gingerbread recipe because some years we've made better versions than others and I truly couldn't remember if this recipe was one of the hits or not. They were both a bit nervous to see that this version didn't include eggs and used vegetable shortening instead of butter. Spencer being the self appointed resident egg cracker was of course disappointed there was no need for his skill in this one.
And then Ally had to share that vegetable shortening is actually animal fat not just vegetable shortening which lent to some interesting conversation.
Traditionally while the dough is chilling we read the book and have some cocoa. Actually in the past it was I who read the book to them but the past few years they read it to me. We added another Jan Brett Gingerbread Friends book to the tradition a few Christmases ago so now we actually read both. Her illustrations never cease to hold our interest in the story. They are pretty amazing. (Now that they are age 13 & 9 and it seems bickering is part of everything they do we ended up having to do rock paper scissors for who would read which book, who would read first.....Auntie T had a bit of a headache this year.)
After an hour the dough was ready to be rolled and cut and we were ready for some hands on work. There is less bickering to be heard when they are busy.
We searched the web for some decorating ideas this year and found some cute Shrek "themed" Gingy versions we thought we'd give a try.
Fun was had with laughter and a bit of additional bickers here and there but overall it was the tradition we all love.
We were all pleasantly happy with the taste of our babies this year even without the eggs & butter. They made for a plump & chewy cookie.
I always remind them this something I still expect them to come do with me in high school, college, 25 and even with their own children.
It's time well spent with "the babies" we love and it's not the holidays until it happens around here.
Betty Crocker's Gingerbread Cookies
- cup packed brown sugar
- cup shortening
- 1 1/2
- cups dark molasses
- cup cold water
- cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
- teaspoons baking soda
- teaspoons ground ginger
- teaspoon ground allspice
- teaspoon ground cinnamon
- teaspoon ground cloves
- teaspoon salt
Frosting and Decorations
- cups powdered sugar
- teaspoon vanilla
- to 5 tablespoons half-and-half
- Food colors, if desired
- Raisins or chocolate chips, if desired
- In large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses and water with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon, until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- 2 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheet lightly with shortening or spray with cooking spray. On floured surface, roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut with floured gingerbread cutter or other shaped cutter. On cookie sheet, place cutouts about 2 inches apart.
- 3 Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
- 4 In medium bowl, mix powdered sugar, vanilla and half-and-half until frosting is smooth and spreadable. Add food colors as desired. Frost cookies; decorate with raisins, chocolate chips and candies
- Assorted candies, if desired