Making last minute gingerbread cookies or gingerbread men is totally possible and here is a super simple gingerbread recipe you can make low waste and skip single use packaging.
Shop bought ginger bread men NEVER taste as good as home baked, plus they almost always have extra ingredients to increase shelf life AND come in plastic.
This recipe is simple to mix and you don't need any special equipment to do it.
Before you get too many ides - DO NOT attempt a last minute gingerbread house. It's only going to stress you out and chew up precious time you could be spending relaxing!
This ginger bread recipe takes 5-10 minutes to mix the dough, an hour to chill and around 8-10 minutes in the oven.
You can make them as perfect as you like but in my house, at least one kid is helping and I need to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and just go with the flow.
This activity can be a lot of fun and allowing your kids to be creative, messy and imperfect is sooo important. (it's also a great way to spend quality family time together)
Don't even worry what they look like, I promised you that it will taste fantastic regardless, so focus on creating beautiful memories.
DO get everyone to thoroughly wash their hand fist.
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Makes about 30 - 40 cookies depending on their size.
175g of Butter (soft - at room temperature)
175g Brown Sugar
3 cups of All-Purpose Plain Flour (organic, unbleached is ideal)
1 1/2 teaspoons of Cinnamon
2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Allspice (Alternatively, 1/2 a teaspoon each of ground nutmeg & clove)
1 teaspoon of Bicarb Soda
1/2 cup Molasses (get the best version you can)
Here's the Organic Molasses I used which is organic with no added sulphur.
You can even buy it in bulk 20kg containers!
If your attempting a homemade gingerbread house mix up at least a double batch (triple if you want to accommodate for any mistakes, the extra can be used for cookies)
Add butter, brown sugar, molasses and egg to mixing bowl.
Mix well until it looks creamy.
It's really important not to miss an ingredient here - on my second batch I forgot to add molasses and it was much harder to mix in at the end when I realised my error)
Now add all other ingredients and mix in
Initially you can use a wooden spoon but you will need to use your hands to properly mix it through. yes, you can sift the flour and use 2 separate bowls, but personally i find this unnecessary.
This is about the stage when I swap to hand mixing.
If you do have a food processor or mixing appliance, go ahead and use it if you prefer.
Roll the dough into a ball (if making a double batch roll into 2 balls) and place in the fridge in the mixing bowl. Use a plate to cover, there's absolutely no need for gladwrap.
It needs to be in the fridge for an hour or 2 and can be left overnight.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
Roll out the dough. If it's too solid, knead to soften.
(If you don't own a rolling pin, use a bottle, it works exactly the same and can be chilled to stop the dough melting, especially if you're working in the Aussie heat)
I have a beautiful old wooden rolling pin from my late grandmother and that is my preferred tool really.
A marble rolling pin would certainly be a little easier as it stays cool and nothing sticks to it. (Would be a great match with my marble pastry board too, another hand me down I am ever so grateful for)
Marble stays cool and makes it easy to work the dough, but if you have marble benchtops or even glass boards, these will work too (and yes, you can use plastic chopping boards quite successfully)
Cut out shapes and transfer to a baking tray using an egg flip.
You don't need baking paper at all if using nonstick trays as the mix is so buttery. You can grease the trays if you prefer and I recommend doing this for non stick bakeware.
This is my favourite type of non-stick baking tray which has a lifetime guarentee, but for now, i'll keep using what I have.
Bake for around 8-10 minutes and allow to cool either on the tray or or a wire rack.
If you're making gingerbread people, use a garlic crusher to create strands of gingerbread hair.
Here's the garlic crusher we've been using for years and years, after many failed crushers that broke and fell apart! It doesn't have attachments and is all one piece and mostly stainless steel so there is pretty much nothing that can go wrong with it.
Don't forget, attach the hair BEFORE baking - it turns out nice and crunchy too.
Raid your kitchen cupboards (or playdough equipment) for interesting items to cut cookies with - here's a sandwich cutter we used. Anything with a shape or texture can be useful in creating fun cookies and if you have no cookie cutters, use a glass to cut circles.
You don't need to rush out to buy textured rollers, special cookie cutters or anything other than the ingredients.
To decorate, you can mix icing sugar with a tiny amount of water and mix until it is a similar texture to toothpaste.
For coloured icing, simply add a drop or two of food coloring.
Alternatively, melt chocolate and use to attach decorations (instead of icing sugar). Ginger bread and chocolate are a perfect match together. i used to do this all the time before i learnt how easy it was to mix icing.
You can go zero waste with your decorations and opt for things like nuts, sultanas, dried fruit, smarties of whatever else you can find in bulk.
This year, we opted for some packaged and unpackaged food decorations.
If you have extra time up your sleeve, there's no reason you cant make a gingerbread house with this recipe.
This year, I really wanted to make a gingerbread house from scratch. I just drew a template on the back of a cereal box using a ruler and cut it out. You can make this any size you like really.
You roll out the dough, just like with cookies, and place your template on top and cut the shape out with a butter knife. Bake for a minute or 2 longer to ensure it will be hard enough to support a roof and decorations.
To create a brick look, simply press a wire rack into the dough 2 ways.
I also used a meat tenderizer to create a textured roof so hunt around for anything that has a textured finish.
By cutting smarties or m&ms in half you can add Christmas lights to your cookies or gingerbread house. (place an icing blob where you want the lights to be and squish them in place)
My ginger bread house looks pretty wonky, I'm not proud of it, BUT it is going to taste amazing. I'm sure we can make a better looking one next time round.
Right now, as i'm writing this, it's sitting in the fridge to help the icing set a little quicker and i'm crossing my fingers the roof holds up when the time comes!
I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but I placed the right side wall wrongly which was my first wall. The front of the wall is inside the house and the back of the wall is outside. They should both be inside and as a result I had to do the opposite with the left hand side wall. I'm still hoping I can hide the faults with the roof, some extra icing and copious amounts of decorations!
If your gingerbread cookies or house doesn't turn out the way you dreamt it would, it really doesn't matter one bit.
DO NOT throw it out, think of it as being just like ugly fruit - still delicious, just not instagram worthy perhaps!
My daughter was given some cookie cutters that fit together to create 3D trees, stars and snowmen. I totally thought i would have the cutest gingerbread village.....but no....not even close!
A little tip if you're doing this, I learnt the hard way, is that you MUST piece them together as soon as they come out of the oven while the cookies are still flexible, otherwise they won't fit and will crack.
I ended up eating the bottom halves and using the top halves on cups of hot chocolate.
Are you making some last minute gingerbread?
I'd love to hear how you go with this recipe and if you have some pics to share, head on over to the facebook page and add them.
I'll be sharing my gingerbread house regardless of how it turns out!