How many of us remember making these little fellows when we were children? I grew up in a city with a strong German community and baking was part of the area’s way of life. So much so that every year when the children were small, out would come the mixer, the molasses (or treacle to UK and Irish bakers), the flour etc. and the table would be covered with small bowls of tiny decorative sugar bits and different colour icings. What fun! And what a mess!
Nowadays every supermarket has a good selection of ready-made icing and all those lovely bits so there’s no excuse not to make a few gingerbread men or stars, or angels, or rounds or anything your heart desires. I’m offering my original ‘childhood’ recipe below in the hope that some of you will be tempted to try it, but there are other gingerbread recipes that are sweeter or softer….mine is designed to be turned into tree ornaments that will stand firm for the Christmas period. My favourite tree of all time was a totally edible one, with candy canes, cranberry garlands, apples, and of course, little gingerbread men dressed to the hilt. This decorated ginger confection can be traced back to medieval times, so is part of a long long tradition.
Irma Rombauer’s Gingerbread Men Recipe
Makes approx. 8 Large Men
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C
¼ cup (2oz) butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup treacle (or molasses)
3 ½ cups regular flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons water (approx.)
Cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the treacle (or molasses) and beat in. Sift the flour and add the baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and salt.
Add this dry mixture to the bowl in 3 parts, alternating with 5 or more tablespoons of water as you go. This is a ‘hard’ dough, so you should be able to roll it out well, almost a pastry dough so treat it as such.
Get out your cookie cutters and work away – always good to have small helpers for this bit. Slide your shapes onto a greased baking tray, into the oven for 8-10 minutes, then cool…at this stage the fun really begins! Decorate!!
This recipe, by the way, can be doubled or tripled if you have a large guest list this season.