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How could our Christmas baking be all that it should be without that batch of Gingerbread men, who smell of cinnaomon and cloves and wear their raisin faces and royal icing vests so proudly.

It wouldn’t be the holidays without the fragrant scent of cinnamon, without the trees decorated for guests and the cookies baking nearly every day and the mess of royal icing for us to clear away on a daily basis.

Gingerbread men are one of the most traditional of holiday cookies in the US, along with brightly decorated sugar cookies, both of which are used as often for decorations as they are for eating.

To use them as both, wrap them individually after your icing has dried completely in saran or seal in snack sized zip lock baggies.

To hang them on the tree or to use as gift tags, make a hole in the top of the cookie with a straw or end of a wooden skewer before they are baked or a small hole, large enough for a ribbon in the zip lock bag.

Gingerbread Men:

(Recipe from Recipes.com)

3 cups (420 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar

1 large egg

2/3 cup (160 ml) unsulphured molasses

Note: To prevent the molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, first spray the cup with a non stick vegetable spray (like Pam).

Confectioners Frosting:

2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoons milk or light cream

Assorted food colors (if desired)

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.

Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside while you roll out the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Use a gingerbread cutter to cut out the cookies. With an offset spatula lift the cut out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart. If you are hanging the cookies or using as gift tags, make a hole at the top of the cookies with a straw or end of a wooden skewer.

Bake for about 8 – 12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Small ones will take about 8 minutes, larger cookies will take about 12 minutes. They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minutes. When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

If desired, you can press raisins, currants, or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Otherwise, confectioners frosting can be used to decorate the cookies. You can also use the icing as a glue to attach candies, raisins, and sprinkles.

Confectioners Frosting: In an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add a little more milk if too dry. Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and decorate the gingerbread men as desired.

Tint portions of frosting with desired food color (I use the paste food coloring that is available at cake decorating stores and party stores).

Makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter used.

Store in an airtight container.

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