You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!
“Run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!”
– The Gingerbread Man, a fairy tale
Many of us probably remember the infamous words of the little spice cookie from the early American folktale who said, “Run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!” as he dashed away from the kind old woman who baked him.
Was that adventurous cookie the inspiration for Gingerbread Decorating Day, celebrated on December 10th this year? Perhaps, but in fact gingerbread has been around for thousands of years. According to Epicure and Culture1, the first gingerbread was baked very firm and used for religious ceremonial purposes. By the time an Armenian monk brought it to Europe in 992, they had perfected the process and were baking gingerbread in specially made molds in order to create images of saints and other important religious characters.
Eventually gingerbread became associated with the Christmas holidays, which is why we see so much of this tasty treat around this time of year.
But no matter what you celebrate or how you celebrate it, everyone can join in on the fun of Gingerbread Decorating Day! All it takes is a little imagination, a few good recipes, some simple tools, and some enthusiastic friends or family members to join in on the fun.
Christmas themed cookies are always fun if that’s what you celebrate, but you can dress up your cookies any way you like. If you celebrate Hanukkah (December 25 – January 1), Solstice (December 21), or Kwanzaa (December 26 – January 1), for example, you can cut out shapes or use colors to reflect these beautiful traditions.
If you want to make a specific shape but don’t have, or can’t find, a pre-made cookie cutter, all you have to do is trace out the desired shape on cardboard and cut it out. To make your custom cookies, just place the cardboard cutout on top of your rolled out dough, then carefully trace around it with a sharp knife.
As far as decorations go, you’re only limited by your imagination! Piped royal icing, small candies, gum drops, jelly beans, fruit leather, sprinkles, colored sugar, and other cake decorations make great additions to baked gingerbread.
Check out Cute Food For Kids for some great decoration inspiration, and watch this short YouTube video to see how to ice your cookies using royal icing.
You may be content to simply make gingerbread people and other assorted shapes with your dough, but if you want to get really adventurous, you could make a whole gingerbread house. Check out Better Homes and Gardens for 41 amazing gingerbread houses for a little inspiration.
Chances are you have a tried-and-true old family gingerbread recipe you can use, but if not, you can take your pick of dozens of gingerbread recipes found on Food Network.
If you can’t find premade royal icing (either already mixed or in powder form where you just add water), you can make it from scratch. If you’re concerned about using raw egg whites, simply substitute meringue powder. Check out Martha Stewart’s recipe and accompanying video here.
Gifting and gathering
Homemade gingerbread cookies make sweet hostess gifts packed in a simple white box or clear cookie bag and tied with festive ribbon. Check out your local bulk store or dollar store for inexpensive packaging ideas.
Gingerbread cookies also look gorgeous hanging from a Christmas tree. All you have to do is make sure to make a small hole in the top of your cookie before baking, then thread it with twine or ribbon so it’s ready to hang. Because gingerbread is a pretty firm cookie, you usually don’t have to worry about it crumbling or going bad before the tree comes down. You may, however, have to worry about them being eaten before Santa comes!
Since baking and decorating cookies is more fun when you do it with friends or family members, consider inviting the group over to help you make your family of gingerbread people. Or invite them over for a cookie swap and share your gingerbread creations while enjoying the tasty treats your guests have brought along.
‘Tis the season to savor the sweet scents of goodies baking in the oven, so get out your mixing bowls and spices and see if you can be the one to catch that sneaky gingerbread man once and for all!
414261C CAN/US (12/16)