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Gingerbread, the Scent of Christmas

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 21, 2008

Fresh-cut evergreens … crushed peppermint candy … a roasting turkey … Lots of aromas signal Christmas. None takes me back to the magical Christmases of my childhood, though, like the sweet and spicy scent of baking gingerbread.

We loved it so much that we served it three ways: warm ginger cake, the pure experience of molasses and cloves and ginger; a milder upside-down gingerbread topped with caramelized peaches; and gingerbread boys. The gingerbread boys — thick and soft, cut with my grandmother’s six-inch cutter (now my prized heirloom) and decorated with pink frosting — so easy to make, so ooh’d and ahh’d when they were taken to parties, make it Christmas today even without the other trappings.

Gingerbread is the family gift that keeps giving — not only is it wonderful to eat, but it also leaves your house smelling of love and Christmas and family tradition long after the dishes are washed. Or so it seems to me.

Gingerbread Boys

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2 tblsp. vinegar
5 cups sifted flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 to 3 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves

Thoroughly cream shortening with sugar. Stir in egg, molasses and vinegar; beat well. Sift together dry ingredients; stir into molasses mixture. Chill at least three hours. On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with gingerbread boy cutter. Place one inch apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees 5 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly on baking sheet, then remove very carefully with spatula. Cool on wire racks.

Decorate by piping on pink frosting to fill in faces, clothing, etc. Faces and buttons may also be made with candy red hots placed on cookies before baking by slightly pressing into cookie dough.

Gingerbread

3 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
2¾ tsp. baking powder
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup light molasses
¾ cup hot water

Sift together flour, spices, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs. Blend in molasses. Add dry ingredients alternately with hot water, blending well after each addition. Pour batter into greased 9×9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees 60 to 65 minutes or until done.

Gingerbread with Peach Topping

Batter:

½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup molasses
1½ cups sifted flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ to 1 tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ginger
½ cup boiling water

Topping:

¼ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar, packed
sliced peaches

Melt butter in cake pan; add brown sugar; line pan with peaches. Cream shortening and sugar. Add egg and molasses, beating thoroughly. Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with boiling water, beating after each addition. Pour batter over topping. Bake at 350 degrees, 45 minutes. Serve with fruit on top (like upside-down cake).

Variations: Use cherries and broken pecan halves; pineapple; or apricots instead of peaches.



7 Comments »

  1. Yum! We have a gingerbread boy tradition too (and similar recipe, although ours has buttermilk in it). I’ll have to try the peaches one, that looks delicious. Keep a rollin’ and a cuttin’ and a bakin’!

    Comment by Anita — December 21, 2008 @ 8:24 am

  2. Interesting. I don’t know if I’ve ever had turkey at Christmas-time except in Germany. Then it was three turkey dinners in the space of two days. That put me off eating that type of poultry for about ten years. And our tree’s artificial. No pine scent here.

    But as to the gingerbread: sounds delicious. All three kinds. (Although we don’t really need more sweets. We had stollen tonight for Fourth Advent, and that is very rich.) My kids would love it, though, if I made gingerbread cookies. I even have molasses in the house, but I don’t have shortening. (Used the last bit for some pie crusts last week.) Do you think I could use butter instead?

    Comment by Researcher — December 21, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

  3. I love new holiday recipes. Thanks for this- and Merry Christmas!

    Comment by C Jones — December 21, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

  4. As far as I know butter would work just fine, Researcher. It’s a very tender dough, so chilling is essential. So is rolling them thick enough to be soft, or at least taking them out of the oven before they overbake. They should be nowhere near as crisp as the sheets of gingerbread that you might use to make houses.

    Anita and C. Jones, thanks for commenting. I made the peach-topped gingerbread this morning and it still smells wonderful around here!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 22, 2008 @ 1:14 am

  5. Peach topping? I’ve never heard of that, but it is making my mouth water. Mmmmm. Have a merry Christmas, Ardis!

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — December 22, 2008 @ 9:24 am

  6. Butter-flavored shortening is a good option too.

    Comment by Anita — December 22, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  7. I definitely want to try these. Thank you for sharing!

    Comment by m&m — December 23, 2009 @ 12:58 am

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