When I was a little girl we would sometimes go shopping for our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve morning. We never had a lot of money, and usually by Christmas Eve the nice man at the tree lot would give my mom, three excited little girls in tow, our tree for free. And we’d take it home and set it up and spend the day decorating it. We’d start with as many white twinkly lights as the skinny thing would hold. Then we’d add the clothespin soliders my mom made years ago, and the pretty candles my dad brought home from Germany. Then we’d hang it with candycanes and red curly ribbon and in my mind it was the most beautiful thing ever. But my very favorite part about decorating those Christmas Eve Trees were the gingerbread boys. This is Day 2 of my Handmade Christmas series.
For as many years as I can remember my mom and my sisters would make gingerbread boys at Christmas. Sometimes they were to hang on the tree, and sometimes they were just to eat. (One year our dog found himself alone in the family room and ate every gingerbread boy on the bottom third of the tree. He even nibbled off the legs of the one’s just out of his reach. Poor guys, they went down bravely.) It was so much fun to sit around the dining room table together with stacks of gingerbread cookies ready to frost. Then we’d string them up with a bit of red ribbon and hang them up on the tree. With the candy canes and the candles and the toy soldiers I thought it looked like a Christmas dream come true.
I spent yesterday afternoon baking some gingerbread ornaments for our tree this year. I think we are going to get our tree tonight and then I can hang them up. So while I sat in the kitchen daydreaming and decorating my stacks of boys I got a little carried away. I usually do. I just can’t do them all the same. Though cute, those straight rows of buttons and happy smiles get boring.
This guy escaped from the hospital. He should still be in bed. You see, he was in a skiing accident and his face got a little sqwunched,* not to mention his buttons are all out of line and he’s still got a bandaged head and a cast on his leg. But he didn’t want to miss his big chance to be famous here on the internet. So he ran away for fame and/or fortune. Or maybe he hopped away, you know, on his good leg.
This guy was outside playing with his gingerbread friends. He’s wearing mittens and snowpants and boots, in case you can’t tell. They were having a snowball fight and this poor dude took one right to the face. No one told him to duck. Ah, the possibilities for gingerbread men stories are so endless. I absolutely love it. For the past few years I’ve made gingerbread boys for all of my neighbors. Each one decorated a little different. I think it was two years ago I was on a roll and made some football player Boys and an Astronaut Boy, and even Darth Vader Boy. I love making them so much. It always reminds me home, and it’s such a fun way for me to spend an afternoon. And seeing them all hanging up on my tree reminds me of how magical Christmas is for children. I mean, really, a tree covered with candy canes and cookies? Pure Christmas Magic.
*Scott and I just had a lengthy discussion about how there is no correct way to spell “sqwunched” because sqwunched is not in fact a word. (So he says. I was definitely on the other side of this conversation.) He kept telling me that in this universe it is impossible for a gingerbread boy, or any other boy for that matter to have a “sqwunched face”, skiing accident or no. In THIS universe his face would have to have been SCRUNCHED. Totally boring, predictable and unimaginatively scrunched. Lame, right? We finally decided that if you happen to be living in a parallel universe THEN you can have a gingerbread boy who got in a skiing accident which left him with a broken leg and a SQWUNCHED face. So…. that being said… hello from The Parallel Universe. I’ll be back soon.
RECIPE FOR GINGERBREAD BOYS TO EAT
1/2 cup butter Crisco
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix all ingredients together and turn dough out onto a generously floured surface, knead a few times to form into a ball. Roll cookies to about half an inch thick and cut out. Bake for 11 minutes at 350 degrees and cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.
DIRECTIONS FOR GINGERBREAD BOYS TO HANG ON THE TREE
Make these boys the same as above, but don’t use cloves or ginger or nutmeg. It’s ridiculous to use those expensive spices for something that your dog might possibly devour. And besides, after it’s been hanging on your tree for a month you’re not going to want to eat them anyway. So don’t waste the good spices. Don’t leave out the cinnamon, it’s cheap and it will make them smell delicious.
Roll gingerbread dough to about 1/8 an inch thick and cut out. Line them up on your cookie sheet and use a drinking straw to poke holes in their heads for hanging before you bake them. (Wow, that sounds so morbid.) You want these guys to be really thin. If they are too thick the extra weight of the cookie will make them too heavy and their heads won’t be able to hold them up. One night you’ll hear someone you’re pretty sure isn’t Santa crashing around in your living room and in the morning when you wake up the floor will be scattered with fallen boys. (Ask me how I know.) Also, you want to cook them until they are pretty dark, but not burned, just really crispy. If you hang them on a real tree they will absorb some of the water evaporating off your tree and if they get too soft, they will also break through their hangars and tumble to the floor. Again, ask me how I know this. So, roll them extra thin and bake them a few extra minutes.
1 egg white
2ish cups of powdered sugar
1 pinch of cream of tarter (I only use 1/3 of my full recipe. It calls for 1/4 teaspoon, so whatever 1/3 of a 1/4 a teaspoon is. In my book that is a pinch.)
Beat until pretty stiff and spoon it into a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag with a teeny snip taken off the corner. Start with a teensy teensy snip, you can always make it bigger if you need to.