I love my kids. Oftentimes I am so hungry to just hold them and feel their smooth skin and kiss them and just soak them up … oftentimes, but NOT in the kitchen. I find it SO hard in the kitchen to bake or cook with my zany pack of wolves. “Can I lick?” “Can I mix?” “He got more!” Kids in the kitchen and I don’t mix!
You get the idea, it’s an arena for competition and sibling rivalry, all mixed up with sugar, flour, aprons, and the rest. This year, with Annaliese no longer napping, I’ve got four players on the scene, all vying for the front line and premiere amounts of mixing, tasting, stirring, and whatever else they can get their hungry hands on. I’m taking deep breaths and trying to make sure no one gets burned!
So I’d by lying if I said to you that I ENJOY cooking and holiday baking with my kids all the time. But this year we turned a corner somehow when we embarked on our annual endeavor of making gingerbread cookies together. I actually had FUN. And the kids didn’t try to kill each other… I’ve done this so many years now that I’ve sort of figured out how to make it work by giving each kid ownership of their own dough, cookies, and cookie pan. Most important is that I am there as a helper and not a perfectionist — I doubt I would feel comfortable bringing these to a cookie swap or even a party at your best friend’s house.
No, they are misshapen, some are thick, some are thin, some are crusty, some are chewy in the center, but they are actually made by my kids. I was the sous-chef and did a lot of rolling and placing on to the pans but that was it.
Because I love practical plans that work and allow us mommies to mother while not losing our minds — here is the play-by-play of this year’s gingerbread cookie baking episode.
Oh, the recipe, that’s probably why you’re reading this right? Okay, so this recipe was handed down by my dear friend Amanda who swears it’s from Martha Stewart but I can’t find where (thank you, Martha). There are one or two slight adaptations, but otherwise, she gets full credit.
Gingerbread Cookies (Makes about 2 dozen)
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger ** This is the only tricky thing. You have to buy fresh ginger, peel it and then grate it. I add 2 teaspoons here by the way which gives a little more punch (sorry, Martha). **
- 1 1/4 teaspoons allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup molasses (because you have to use good ‘ole molasses for some things, otherwise it would go extinct).
- Combine dry ingredients and set aside
- Cream butter and sugars until fluffy (I do at least 3 min). Add egg (beat another 3 min). Add fresh ginger and molasses. Slowly add in dry ingredients. Scoop dough from bowl and divide into two sections and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two hours or overnight (overnight best).
When ready to bake with kids:
- Cover your table with an inexpensive plastic cover. At the end you will just roll up everything, and throw out the plastic.
- Line cookies sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide dough into sections and allot to children. Use very abundant amounts of flour during the whole process!
Dough will be unwieldy at first because it’s so cold. The trick is to soften it but then to have the kids begin making their shapes because if you wait too long, the dough gets too sticky and mushy and is hard to form into cookies. As you can see here, Annaliese was struggling a bit here because her dough was too worked over so it was getting mealy.
- Getting the cookies on the sheets will be an adventure. You’ll end up with thick, thin, and misshapen cookies but therein lies the beauty. I actually use a very thin metal cheese carver to carve the dough out and lift the cookies onto the cookie sheets, and I flour that too. Here are our sheets ready for bakin’:
- The recipe says to bake for 15 minutes but mine were in for much longer, the thicker ones for closer to 30 minutes, keep checking because of course every oven is different. I wait for mine to have a slightly browned look:
Here are some of our new additions this year. Initials and an angel within a bell (courtesy of Hedley).
- As for packaging, you wouldn’t think I’d do all that hard work and have the cookies lose their oomph, would you? No, no, I package them in a Ziploc bag, then I line my plastic container with paper towel so that they don’t break, and then I insert them. All nestled away until tomorrow when everyone will beg to eat “their cookies.”
Good luck cooking and baking with kids and Happy Holidays!
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