E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune; Shannon Kinsella/food styling

Recipe of the Day: Gingerbread People

Great for Christmas ornaments or your holiday dessert spread
E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune; Shannon Kinsella/food styling

Although the holiday season may look a little different this year, there's plenty of ways to enjoy your favorite Christmas traditions from home. Baking cookies, for instance, is a tried and true holiday activity. You may not be able to celebrate with real people outside your home this season, so make gingerbread people instead. You can even label them with the names of your loved ones to really make them feel close to you -- but this time you don't have to actually share your baked goods.

The Best Christmas Cookie Recipes

Before giving this recipe a try, make sure your kitchen is strapped with pantry staples. Gingerbread people require everthing from cinnamon to dry mustard powder. Although the process is involved, it's a cookie recipe any beginner baker can successfully pull off. Just make sure you keep your baking station well floured and let the gingerbread cookies cool completely before adding the icing. 

Once the cookie dough is prepared, let it refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight. When it's ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough and use a four or five inch cookie cutter to cut out the gingerbread people. Punch a hole in each person's head with a straw. After the cookies are decorated and the icing has dried, eat them fresh or tie ribbon around heads and use the cookies as holiday decor. 

Dip the cookies in some of these incredible winter beverages, or keep the baking process going with more of our favorite gingerbread recipes for cookies, houses and more. 

Gingerbread People

Ingredients

3 cups flour, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each: allspice, black pepper, dry mustard powder and nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured dark molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Homemade or purchased icing, for decorating

Directions

In a large bowl, sift together 3 cups flour with the ginger, cinnamon, backing soda, allspice, black pepper, dry mustard, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter and brown sugar.

Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Beat in molasses, egg and vanilla.

Add sifted ingredients to butter mixture in 3 portions, beating well after each addition. The dough will be sticky.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of parchment or plastic wrap and shape into two disks.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. (Note: Dough can be frozen at this stage if desired. Thaw fully before proceeding.)

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or grease them well. Set aside.

Remove dough from the refrigerator.

Flour a work surface well, and tip dough onto it.

Flour the dough and a rolling pin. (Alternatively, roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper with an unfloured rolling pin.)

Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick.

Use a 4- or 5-inch cookie cutter to cut out gingerbread people.

With a reusable straw, punch a hanging hole near the top of each person’s head.

Place the people about an inch apart on the baking sheets.

Gather up and re-roll the scraps, adding more flour if needed, and cut out remaining people, punching a hanging hole before baking. (See note.)

Bake, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back, or until they feel firm, about 10 minutes.

Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets until they are firm enough to transfer to a rack, about 10 minutes.

Repeat with remaining people. (Baked people can be frozen, separated by parchment paper, in an airtight container for up to 3 months.)

After people are decorated with names and faces and additional adornment and allowed to dry, tie ribbons for hanging through the holes near the tops of their heads.

Related

This recipe by Robin Mather appeared in the Chicago Tribune.