Gingerbread cookies (typically men, women, boys and girls) are a big deal in our house. We all have an opinion on the perfect texture, color, sweetness and decorations. They are usually just a Christmas affair, but we decided to bring them to February. Hello Gingerbread footballs! Cause why not?! It's still cold outside (at least in our little corner of the globe in Charlotte, North Carolina).
My daughter asked me who "made up" the first gingerbread and I got a little curious. PBS had some interesting tidbits:
"Ginger root was first cultivated in ancient China, where it was commonly used as a medical treatment. From there it spread to Europe via the Silk Road. During the Middle Ages it was favored as a spice for its ability to disguise the taste of preserved meats. Henry VIII is said to have used a ginger concoction in hopes of building a resistance to the plague. Even today we use ginger as an effective remedy for nausea and other stomach ailments. In Sanskrit the root was known as srigavera, which translates to ‘root shaped like a horn’ – a fitting name for ginger’s unusual appearance."
So woohoo for ginger! We love it in our elderberry syrup too.
ANYWAY! Our family favorite gingerbread cookies are slightly crunchy, but not too crisp. Chewy, but not too soft. Dark, but not burnt. Sweet, but not bitter. After several years of trials (and many errors), this is a recipe I found that I tweaked from Martha Stewart, and everyone seems to like it. The darkness makes them a good base for easy and (relatively) healthy footballs with just a touch of royal icing. Let me know if you give them a try :) THE SECRET IS THE BLACK PEPPER!!!
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whisk all the dry ingredients together (1-8) in a medium-ish bowl.
- Cream the butter and dark brown sugar until happy...2 minutes or so. Add in the egg, molasses, and vanilla.
- Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir until combined. Flip it onto some plastic wrap, cover and put in the fridge until cold (or the freezer for 30 minutes if you have impatient kiddos).
- Roll the dough out on a floured surface (flour your rolling pin too). Cut out your shapes. You are technically supposed to refreeze or refrigerate at this point...sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Probably doesn't matter too much for non-intricate shapes. A little spreading doesn't matter for footballs!
- Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes....just watch them. Every oven is different and every day is different. Use your light and nose as a guide! :)
My favorite royal icing recipe is HERE. Embrace the mess and chaos if you have littles helping you out. It took me at least a year to get over the kids’ idea of "decorating" but as long as I get a few to decorate then we are all happy!!! :)