I once had delusions of grandeur when it came to having my own Norman Rockwell moments with my kid. Once when he was about 3 or 4, I decided to go all uber-mom and bake gingerbread men. We were using a vegan dough, so no worries about salmonella or anything, and having just THE BEST TIME playing with the dough and making cutouts.
He called them man-men. So cute.
And then I put the cookie sheet in the oven, and my toddler screamed “YOU’RE KILLING MY MAN MEN” and fled the room, crying hysterically.
I’m not going to lie, I think I was traumatized almost as much as my kid by that one. Of course, looking back on it now, all these years later, it’s a funny story. But I did stop trying to involve my kid in baking for a long time. I got a little lazy, for one. He was happy with crappy cookies from the store. Why should mommy make cookies when every time daddy stops at the store he buys some sort of store-bought junk?
Then, too, there was everything that wasn’t perfect about baking with a kid. You have to be twice as careful with knives and stoves, it takes 10 times as long, there’s 20 times as much mess, and on top of all that, sometimes you get accused of being a gingerbread cookie-man serial killer.
Older me is a little bit wiser. I’m actually kind of glad I had my child later in life, because holy crap you guys. If it’s taken me THIS LONG to figure some of this stuff out, I would have been completely out of my depth in my 20s.
Older me thinks, well yes, I could buy a gingerbread house kit, but my kid can’t touch it. Older me thinks, building your own gingerbread house from scratch is actually a great lesson in patience. Probably even more for me than it is for him. Older me thinks that my son is 8 years old now, and he might not want to do fun baking things with mommy for too much longer.
Older me realizes now, after a few years of suffering Holiday Blues, that Christmas spirit isn’t just something that happens or doesn’t. You have to plant it and help it to grow.
I’ll be honest. I’m actually pretty terrible at doing super creative pinteresty baking things, like pretty cupcakes. But if I avoid doing these things because I feel like I’m no good at them, what am I teaching my kid?
Not to try?
Older me thinks it’d be better now to give it a go anyway. Because… why not? Something might end up a little less than perfect? I had enough dough to make 4 houses for the cost of one, so who cares if a couple of them aren’t perfect? My gingerbread men experience sure wasn’t perfect, but in the end, who really wants the Norman Rockwell moment? It’s forgettable.
Having a story about the time my son thought I was killing his cookies by putting them in a hot oven? That’s priceless.
- 1/2 cup butter-flavoured shortening
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/3 tsp baking powder
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 pound icing sugar
- Food coloring (optional)
- Add the ingredients to a stand mixer in the order listed, premixing the flour, baking soda, and baking powder before adding.
- Once the dough is well combined, remove from the stand mixer bowl and knead until no longer flaky. Divide in two, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Roll out dough to 1/8" thick, cut pieces, and bake on parchment for 7-8 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool on cookie sheets and then cool completely before assembling.
- Beat egg whites and cream of tartar till frothy, then gradually add icing sugar and food coloring, if desired.
- Construct house by gluing together pieces with construction frosting and let dry hard.
- Decorate with candy and more construction frosting (keep it wrapped in an airtight container or bowl between uses so it does not dry out).
- 1 stick of butter can be substituted for the shortening and water in the first step.
- Boxed / pasteurized egg whites can be used for construction frosting and meringues as long as they're 100% pure with no other additives in it.
Psst. Hey you. Want $100?
Hey, if you made it this far in the story, I got some Merry Holiday news for you. Lee Valley, who I worked with last year and got an apple peeler from (WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO GET THIS THING?) reached out to me again this year and asked me if I’d run a giveaway for a $100 gift card to their product. All you have to do is click this link here to their catalog, find 3 things that you’d want to buy, and let me know what they are in the comments. Well, and you have to live in the US or Canada, excluding Quebec.
Just a quick word about my equipment I have gotten from Lee Valley and used here – and I’m not being paid to give this opinion here. I like their products. So far, everything I’ve gotten is solid, unlike what I find in a lot of brick and mortar stores, so if you’re afraid of ordering something from a catalog or from their website (LeeValley.com) because it might be a lousy product? Don’t be.
If you have no idea what a dough whisk is, best mixing spoons ever. What will you use it for? Everything (don’t let the name fool you). I use them not only for bread (which they are sturdy enough to cope with), but also for making muffins and pancakes. They also sneak into photos of me mixing dry goods like oatmeal and my DIY chai tea mix.
This pastry kit was actually made in the USA.
But seriously, look at how cool this pastry kit is. It’s got instructions, circle sizes for pie crust sizing, and the thickness guides. The thickness guides alone are worth their weight in gold, because I’ve never figured out how people can tell how thick 1/8 of an inch is supposed to be. Do I keep a ruler in the kitchen? I seriously don’t. The backside was slightly tacky so it wouldn’t slide, and the front side was non-stick and easy to clean, and the rolling pin didn’t need to be dusted with flour. It had all those little design elements that you actually appreciate on use but can’t name on the spot. Again, my opinion, so you may feel free to take it with a grain of salt. But it’s a product I actually had recommended to me because I wouldn’t have gotten it on my own, and I’m glad it was recommended to me – it’s actually really useful, and it packages up small when not in use.
Anyway, enter to win, either for yourself or to give someone you love some really awesome baking tools. You won’t regret it. Oh and make sure if you’re entering that you comment with a valid email address, because that’s how I’m going to try to reach out to the winner.