The Christmas season just isn’t complete without some of the wonderful food traditions we know and love, and gingerbread has to be near the top of the list.
Kids love decorating gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses; let’s face it – the candy sampling is the best part! But many of us – myself included – head to the store for one of those gingerbread kits, shying away from making it from scratch. The real stuff, however, tastes a heck of a lot better, and with a few expert tips, doesn’t seem as daunting to make.
I was lucky enough to attend a gingerbread workshop at the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum, where pastry chef Catherine Beddall demonstrated her tips on making an assembling a gingerbread house (she had tasting samples, too – yummy!).
At the end of the workshop, Beddall shared her incredible gingerbread recipe with the participants – and I’ve obtained her permission to share it with you here.
- 200g / 7oz / 1 cup shortening
- 200g / 7oz / 1 cup granulated sugar
- 160g / 5.5oz / 1/2 cup molasses (regular or “fancy”, not blackstrap)
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 480g / 17oz / 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
(For chocolate gingerbread, add 25g / 1 oz /1/4 cup of cocoa and a teaspoon of water.)
- Prehat oven to 350 F.
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a sturdy hand mixer, beat the shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add molasses and water and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl and beat again for another 30 seconds.
- Sift dry ingredients together and add all at once.
- Mix on slow speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough appears crumbly.
- When you press the dough with your hands, it will stick together.
- Once the dough has come together firmly in a ball, it’s ready to roll out.
Rolling the dough
- Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a flat work surface. The sheet of parchment should be no larger than the size of your baking tray.
- Transfer the dough fro your mixing bowl onto the parchment paper and press down slightly to spread it out a bit.
- Place another sheet of parchment paper on top.
- Roll out the gingerbread, occasionally turning your rolling pin to ensure even spread of the dough, until it’s about 1/8″ thick. Don’t worry if the dough has come past the edges of the parchment paper – you can just cut the edges away.
- Remove the top piece of parchment paper, and there you have it – a smooth, even sheet of gingerbread dough ready for cutting shapes.
- Place the cutter directly on the dough and push down firmly. Remove the cutter. Cut as many shapes as desired or as the sheet of dough will allow, leaving about 1/2″ of space between the shapes.
- When all the shapes are cut, use the tip of a paring knife to pick up the excess dough and lift it off the baking sheet. Continue until all the excess dough has been removed (the excess can be gathered together and rolled out again).
- Holding an edge of each side of the parchment paper, lift and place it directly onto the baking tray.
- The shapes can go straight in the oven. They don’t need to be refrigerated first.
- Bake until the edges of the cookies are just slightly darkened (about 12-14 minutes).
- 520g / 18oz / 4 cups icing sugar
- 3 Tbsp. meringue powder
- 8 Tbsp. water
- 1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
- Sift together icing sugar and meringue powder
- Add water and lemon juice and beat at low speed until combined.
- Beat at high speed for five minutes or until icing forms soft peaks.
- Add color as desired and use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to a month.