JeJu

Gingerbread Goddess

In arts n' crafts, food on 12/25/2010 at 2:53 pm

I admire people who engage in activities that require patience to the point past tedium. Exhibit A: Goth Girl, who every holiday season, spends at least 24 hours non-stop creating a themed gingerbread house. Past masterpieces include a Mexican villa which, after several months, was squatted by a family of mice that squirreled away the decorative candies piece by piece.

Last year, the theme was Justice:

Goth Girl had initially written ‘Justice’ across the top, but then debated for a good day and a half before deciding a multi-tiered medallion provided the proper ratio and balance to the classic architectural elements. She custom handcrafts each piece, making and baking duplicates just in case they don’t puff up properly and/or shrink inappropriately.

This year was the year of Timothy Burton-esque modernist maximalism:

See, although Goth Girl is all about the symmetry, her real world view is beautifully askew.

I’ve begged Goth Girl in years past to let us bear witness to her process, and document it. This year, she finally gave us the recipe and made us some cookies using it. I asked her why she makes real gingerbread for her houses instead of forgoing the spices. She said, because it smells good, obviously! One time, she even took the dough scraps and made Christmas ornaments from them. Eventually though, they acquired mold and had to be discarded.

Ingredients: (adapted from Simply Recipes)

  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1 Tbsp water

1 Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

2 Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.

3 Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead (or use your mixer’s dough hook) until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.

4 Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.

5 Bake in a 350°F oven until the edges are just beginning to darken, ~20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. Rotate the cookie sheets half way through the baking for more even browning. Remove the sheets to racks to cool, about 15 minutes.

………..

This year, the other half read a Martha Stewart Living recipe for making animal cookie cutter ornaments out of a gingerbread-like recipe. We roamed the city searching for the perfect cookie cutters, but couldn’t find the ones from the magazine. The saleslady at Macy’s informed us that yes, you shouldn’t believe what you read.

Final verdict of where to find good, reasonably-priced, non-copper cookie cutters: Crate and Barrel online, Sur La Table, Ikea.

This is especially true for the amount of time it takes to fully dry these cookies. Or it could’ve just been our tiny defective oven. The other half decided to leave the ornaments baking on low overnight, so they wouldn’t warp too much. I awoke in the middle of the night suffocating under a blanket of gaseous odoriferous-ness. The landlord recommended we have the gas company come take a look.

Turns out that besides being coated in an inch thick layer of ashes which was blocking some of the exhaust piping, this gas chamber was also emitting tons of carbon monoxide amongst other noxious fumes. No wonder I’m missing a few brain cells. My oven was making me dumb!

While we await the repair or replacement of our axe-murdering appliance, our tree remains animal cookie cutter ornament-free. Perhaps next year.

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