Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies
Dorcas Annette Walker

Holidays are a wonderful time to try new recipes, bake cookies, and make candy as we celebrate with family and friends. A favorite holiday tradition in our family is making gingerbread cookies each year. The spicy aroma of baking gingerbread wafting through the house signals for our family the beginning of the holiday season.

Gingerbread cookies first originated in Germany around 600 years ago in the monasteries consisting of a flat cake made with honey, ginger, and flour that didn’t spoil easily, was used in journeys, and given to the sick. Ginger spices originated from Indo-Malaysia and were believed to sooth an upset stomach or prevent a cold. Gingerbread has been baked in Europe for centuries and spread through Western Europe by the end of the eleventh century. Germany was known as the gingerbread capital of the world. Soon gingerbread became a fairground delicacy using different shapes to associate with the many celebrated seasons and holidays. Buttons and flowers were sold at fairs in Easter while animals and birds were featured in autumn. There was even a village tradition where unmarried women ate gingerbread husbands to give one a better chance of getting married.

In the nineteenth century gingerbread houses increased in popularity with the publication of a German fairy tale; Hansel and Gretel. By the end of the century America had been baking gingerbread for decades. It is during Christmastime that gingerbread becomes most popular. America holds the greatest repertoire of gingerbread recipes varying in taste, form, and presentation. American recipes usually call for fewer spices than in Europe and often use ingredients from local regions; maple syrup in New England and sorghum molasses in the South.

Today with a varied choice of ingredients, baking aids, decorative items, and ready-made gingerbread kits any cook can create spectacular gingerbread houses and cookies. In Pennsylvania the German tradition of making gingerbread was the greatest and it was here that the first pudgy gingerbread man was made. Our family decorates gingerbread cookies outlined with white icing in the traditional pattern. When my children were small a couple of times I made gingerbread cookies at Halloween for something different, decorating the gingerbread shapes into various career people with all kinds of facial expressions for my kids amusement. Our family recipe makes around four dozen cookies and preparation time takes about two hours.

Gingerbread Cookies

Combine in saucepan:
1 c sugar
½ c water
1 tb ginger
½ c dark syrup or molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves

Bring to a boil and pour over:
1 c shorting in large bowl

Stir until dissolved and add:
4 c self-rising flour

Mix well and put part of dough on floured surface. Roll out thin and cut out cookies with gingerbread cookie cutter. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake at 350ยบ for 10 minutes until slightly brown. Cool and then ice.

Powered Sugar Icing

Mix together in small bowl:
2 c powered sugar
½ c shortening
2-3 tb milk

Beat together with a wire Wisk until smooth and stiff. Fill decorator icing bag with icing and use medium circle to outline gingerbread cookies. Add two dots for eyes, one dot for the nose, and a half circle for the mouth. Finish up with thee dots for buttons on the chest. Let icing harden and store cookies in covered container.

Dorcas Annette Walker is a freelance writer, author, columnist, and photographer from Jamestown, TN. If you have any cooking tips or favorite recipes you are welcome to contact me by mail at: Dorcas Walker, 929 Wildwood Lane, Jamestown, TN 38556 or email me at: For more information about the Walker family and Dorcas’ books check out her website at: or htpp:// for other Creative Mountain Cookin recipes.

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