The secret to making this garland is a simple plastic straw! Just make a small hole in each of the gingerbread hands before baking. After the cookies have completely cooled and the kids have decorated them, let the icing dry at room temperature. Use narrow, red satin ribbon to space the cookies as far apart as you wish... Just run the ribbon through the holes in their hands then knot the ribbon so they will stay in place and trim the ends with scissors... Voila... a gingerbread garland!
So let's get baking! We're off to the kitchen!
We're going to use the mixer on this little project so the adult helper will need to assist! Oh, and by the way, if the kids would rather make snowmen or Christmas trees, just use another cookie cutter!
Here's the ingredient list:
1/2 cup shortening (at room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup molasses
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Large mixing bowl
Mixer on stand
1 1/2-inch cookie cutters
Wire cooling rack
Prepared icing in tubes
Candies for decoration (optional)
Let the kids put the shortening in the mixing bowl and get their little noses right up close and personal to the bowl. As the "adult helper" mixes the shortening for about 30 seconds, explain a little about kitchen safety in using the mixer.
Let the kids measure out the dry ingredients, showing them how to scrap off measurements with a knife so they are exact. Note: you can spread waxed paper on the counter or table top they are working on and there will be less mess to clean up!
Okay... let the kids add the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Beat until all ingredients are combined. Stop the mixer and let the kids scrap the bowl with the spatula. Then beat in the molasses, vinegar and egg until combined.
Now, it's going to get interesting. Stop the mixer and let the kids put in like a half a cup of flour and beat. At some point the dough will be very thick and you will have to finish by hand stirring the remaining flour into the batter.
Let the kids divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours (Yes, you can do this the day before and refrigerate the dough overnight... but if you do that, let the dough sit on the counter for about 10 minutes until it's workable).
All righty... now the fun begins! Man your rolling pins, troops! Grease the cookie sheets and set them aside. And, I suggest that you divide each half of the dough in half again so there is a smaller piece of dough to work with.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Let the kids sift flour to lightly flour the surface of choice (those plastic cutting rectangles are great). Place the gingerbread dough on top of the floured surface and sprinkle just a tad of flour on top. Show the kids how to roll the rolling pin off to the side in flour.
The dough should be rolled out to approximately 1/8-inch... just a little reminder... we're not shooting for "perfection" here... this is supposed to be a learning adventure and most of all, fun!
Now grab those cookie cutters and let the kids cut out those Christmas shapes... again, perfection is not the goal. You may need to help them get them onto the cookie sheet. Leave about an inch between each cookie. Don't forget to take the straw and make holes in the hands of the gingerbread guys and gals or other Christmas critters!
Bake at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes... watching closely until the edges are lightly browned... yes, gingerbread burns easily... the kids will love keeping a close eye on their creations! When you take the cookie sheet out of the oven, leave the cookies on the sheet for about one minute. Then transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool.
While the cookies are cooling, have the kids clean up the work surfaces and get the dishes cleaned up. By that time the cookies will be ready to decorate with icing, candies, Christmas sprinkles... whatever the little ones desire! Then string the red ribbon through the holes and secure with a knot and hang these festive little creatures.
The kids will be so proud... chalk up another "look what I made!"
'Tis the Season for getting kids into the kitchen,
Jan McCracken, Culinary Cook