• 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves or pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ROYAL ICING
  • 3 tablespoons Wilton meringue powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons warm water

There has been so much sadness lately that it is difficult to write about baking cookies. December is a month associated with giving and joy, but for some reason it also tends to bring out the worst in people. The whole world is grieving for the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School. On top of that some of my friends have also been faced with tragedy within their families on the very same day. It’s impossible to comprehend how such horrible things can happen to such innocent and good people. I take comfort in the fact that perhaps they are all together in a better place without guns, cancer, or untimely death watching out for each other and for the rest of us left behind.

For me, baking is not only my creative outlet, but it is highly effective therapy. There is something about following the steps of a recipe, with the anticipation of something delicious and heartfelt in the end, that completely soothes my soul. I’d like to think that Christmas cookies have that effect on most people. These gingerbread men cookies, the perfect combination of spicy and sweet, will stimulate all your fond memories from Christmas’ past. These are fabulous plain with a cup of tea, but even better with a wide brimmed smile and suit made of royal icing.

Directions:

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves (I used pumpkin pie spice) salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight or until easy to handle.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with floured 2-1/2-in. cookie cutters. I love the classic gingerbread men and woman cut outs. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. You can also freeze the cut out shapes at this point and bake them as you need them.
Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool. 

For the Royal Icing, combine all ingredients in a standmixer and beat until light and fluffy. Royal Icing dries hard, wich makes these cookies easy to store. This icing is great for building gingerbread houses because it acts as a strong glue.  If you want to add sprinkles make sure you do so right after applying the frosting so that it will stick before drying.

If you want more spreadable frosting, omit the meringue powder. This icing is great for adding color and creating more intricate designs on your cookies. This type of icing takes a bit longer to dry, but is definitely easier to work with. You can easily change the consistency by adding more water to thin it out for filling in color or thickening with more sugar to pipe on borders.

For more detailed decorating, try Wilton Sparkle Gels. These are perfect for making bow ties, dots and outlining.

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