Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gingerbread People

I love gingerbread at Christmastime. All year I look forward to making it and nurse secret fantasies of perfecting my dough recipe in, say, April, so that I can stash away balls of gingerbread dough in the freezer all year and have a ready supply come December. Of course, this never happens. When I want gingerbread, I have to start from scratch, and there is always that irritating line in the recipe: ‘chill overnight’. I always forget about that and then have to deal with disappointed Zoe who wants to make the gingerbread NOW.

Anyway. I am pleased to announce that I made some delicious (if I may say so myself) Gingerbread and would love to share the recipe with you.

4 cups all purpose flour –maybe more if your dough is too sticky.

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1tbsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tbsp ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves (don’t get this one wrong or your mouth will go nice and numb)

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted is fine too. This whole thing with unsalted butter – Whatever!) softened slightly and cut into chunks.

3/4 cup of unsulphered molasses (otherwise known as Fancy)

2 tbsp milk



Oven at 350.

Mix the flour, spices, salt, sugar and baking soda together. Add the butter and do that combining thing where you end up with a mix of dry ingredients and butter that looks like lumpy sand.

Then add the molasses and go crazy on that puppy until it’s all mixed up. Add the milk. At this point, you will have a gloppy mess and will question your own ability to count cups of flour. Just add some more. Dump in a cup and see if things improve. You can do it! I trust you! Not like my grade 6 Home Ec teacher. What was her name? She taught at North Saanich Middle School and was about 300 years old then so she is possibly no longer with us. Damn I can’t remember her name. Anyone?? She really had a huge amount of faith in our abilities and so challenged us by including in her curriculum such items as ‘Buttered Toast’ and ‘heating up Alphagetti’. The Alphagetti one was the best. I remember Dave Martins and someone else…(another Dave, I think) laughing so hard that letters were coming out of their nostrils. Mrs. Whatsit didn’t think it was that funny.

Once you have a nice dough going on, divide it in half and wrap that sucker up in saran wrap or wax paper and stick it in the freezer. Or you could roll it out, sandwich it in wax paper and freeze it that way but who has time to do that.

It is now probably close to 11pm so that gives you plenty of time to finish the laundry, clean the kitchen, make lunches, sweep the floor, write the 3rd proof of your graduate dissertation, carve a reindeer out of soapstone, and retrieve abandoned food items from around the house while your husband surfs the internet looking for an obscure accessory for his latest gadget. (Oh, I’m kidding. That NEVER happens) before going to bed.

After you have had breakfast, take out the dough  and let it thaw. You will probably forget about it for awhile. That’s Ok. When you finally remember the dough at 7pm, roll it out to about 3/4 inch think. This dough flattens slightly when you bake it so don’t roll it too thin. It will look like this:


The flour makes it look authentic, no?

Then go crazy with your cookie cutters, like we did.DSC05486



LOVE the pudgy hands :) And for all of you smart-asses out there who are right now thinking of a funny comment about how Zoe’s hands  don’t look any different than Jane’s hands, thanks very much, but I’m pretty sure I have heard all the ‘small hands’ jokes out there already.

When you are done cutting out shapes, transfer them to a non-stick baking sheet. If your baking sheet is so old that the term non-stick no longer applies, then grease it up and dust with flour and that should do the trick. Or you can use that new-fangled parchment paper but I’m afraid I’m old-skool and don't really know what that is.

Keep rolling out the scraps and cutting out shapes until it’s all used up.

Then stick them in the oven for like 15 minutes TOPS. Go read your kid a book. When you can poke their little tummies and they just spring back a little, they are done (the gingerbread people, not your kids). Take ‘em out, let them sit for a minute or so, then put them on a rack to cool.

DSC05489 DSC05488

Then eat them. Or store them in a cookie tin like I did except mine was a bit too small or I tried to fit too many in the tin and all their limbs broke off. I can now offer my guests a gingerbread head or a gingerbread leg, and my favourite, a gingerbread torso. Oh it all tastes the same in the end.


Thanks for reading,



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shortbread Stars

Those of you who know me will know that I don’t really like to spend more time in the kitchen than is necessary. I’m not one of these model mothers who bakes everything from scratch. Well OK that is not entirely true; I am a model mother. No, just kidding, I meant I  do like to bake from scratch, I just don’t bake very often. You won’t find me whipping up a batch of muffins Sunday morning or turning out pie crusts and fresh bread every other day. Note to mothers who do this: could you please stop, you are making the rest of us look bad.


So when I do decide to make something, it’s usually a big ordeal. Like yesterday for example when I thought I better do some Christmas Baking because that’s what you do at this time of year. Fortunately, I do have one or two good recipes up my sleeve and I figure once every 12 months is a good time to dust them off. Plus it makes me look good in front of my kids.

“We’re making shortbread” I declared to no one in particular. “And maybe Gingerbread if you’re good”. Family members appeared out of the woodwork and we got down to business.

Shortbread is intimidating if your husband’s family has Scottish grandmothers who baked-the-best-ever-and-so-don’t-even-bother-because-yours-will-never-be-worthy Shortbread. I went through a few recipes before landing on the one on the back of the Canada Cornstarch box. This one is a winner, according to the various grandmothers and husbands who taste-tested it. I tweaked it a bit this year and it’s even better: up the butter to one cup and then double the whole recipe because if you’re like me then you’re going to want to make them a little thicker and this way you can roll them out and cut them into fun shapes.

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup softened salted butter. Do not even consider using margarine. If you do, I cannot be held responsible for the bad luck that will befall you.


Sift together the cornstarch, icing (powdered) sugar and flour. Or not. Whatever. Just mix it together already! Who has time to sift anything anyway.

Cut the butter into chunks and work it through the flour mixture with your fingertips until it looks like a flour mixture with bits of lumpy butter in it. Then you can start squeezing it into a soft smooth dough. Don’t overdo it. Or better yet let your kid do this part. Their pudgy little hands look so cute…


Throw down some flour and then roll out your dough with a rolling pin. Don’t roll it any thinner than 3/4 of an inch. Seriously! It’s better this way. Cut out whatever shapes you want.



Place 1 1/2" apart on a cookie sheet.


Bake 300' for 15-18 minutes at which point you will open the oven door and declare that they can’t possibly be done yet. They are. Take them out now! Leave them to cool for a bit and then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool. After 30 seconds, you will forget about letting them cool for any longer and will want to eat one. Go ahead! 


That’s what I’m talking about. It’s all about the comfort, people. All about the comfort.
Stay tuned for my favourite gingerbread recipe coming soon.

Thanks for reading and happy baking:)