Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Christmas Cookies

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The mind is like an attic full of memories. In my attic lies a section devoted to my childhood memories of Christmas . . . 
and one spot is devoted to . . .
The Gingerbread Man.

When I was a little girl, I remember going to the bakery at Center Square in Easton, Pennsylvania, with my mother and grandmother. Opening the door, sleigh bells jingled, and the warmth of the shop rushed through the open door and filled our nostrils with the smells of sweet delights. Above the long, glass display case filled with cookies, pastries and cakes, a string of large gingerbread men teased children in awe of the Christmas treats.

I don't ever recall asking for nor receiving one of those gingerbread men, but I believe it was the start of a treasured memory . . . .

I say the start of a memory because it was continued later in my childhood when my parents would take me to visit my dad's brother, my Uncle David Newton, and his family in rural Sanitaria Springs, New York. The close of each Christmas season visit was marked by a gift of one of Aunt Sue's wonderful gingerbread men. I remember holding that bagged cookie on my lap all the way back to our home in Vestal, just waiting for Christmas day when I could finally bite off his head...with gusto!

Which brings us to the question: 
What part of the gingerbread man do you eat first? 

When my children were young, gingerbread men made with Aunt Sue's recipe were an annual tradition . . . one that this year will continue, though it be by the miles between us, with our grandson, William. The recipe, which I first received from my aunt, typed on a 3x5 index card, was entitled Gingerbread Persons. A notation stated that the recipe had been brought from England by my aunt's great great grandmother.

Today I will share that recipe with you. Note that I have changed the name back to the traditional:

Gingerbread Men
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine water, baking soda and molasses and set aside. Combine other ingredients and then add the liquids. It is easier to handle if the dough is formed into a ball and refrigerated for at least one hour. Roll out a portion on a floured board, 1/4 inch thick, and cut out shapes, leaving unused portion in the refrigerator until needed. Place an inch apart on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will puff up and be soft when they come out of the oven. Allow to rest a moment before removing to cooling rack. Allow to cool thoroughly before decorating with royal icing.

I hope you will enjoy this seasonal treat 
as much as I have in years past.

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