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Gingerbread People

Silvery or pearlescent dragées in a variety of sizes, small red or white candies and colored sprinkles can dress up any gingerbread man (or woman). After the baked cookies have cooled, decorate with icing and use clean tweezers to place the desired decorations on the still-wet icing. For a more homey look, while the cookies are still warm, press dried currants, dried cranberries or raisins down the center of each torso to make buttons. Or, before baking, use a clean garlic press to make gingerbread hair.

Ingredients:

  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbs. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Royal icing for decorating (see related recipe at left)
  • Colored sugars and other decorations as desired

Directions:

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your finger and thumb. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the molasses. Add the egg and beat until the mixture is blended.

Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating on low speed or stirring with a wooden spoon until well blended.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and, with floured hands, form into a large, smooth mound. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, shape into disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Using gingerbread cookie cutters 3 to 5 inches tall, cut out figures. Using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough portions, then gather up the scraps and reroll them. If the scraps of dough have become sticky, refrigerate them for 10 minutes before rerolling. For best results, do not roll the same piece of dough more than twice.

Bake the gingerbread figures until lightly browned on the bottom, about 6 minutes. Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool completely. Dress up the cooled gingerbread figures with the royal icing, sugars and other decorations. Makes 2 to 5 dozen cookies, depending on size.

Adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book, Edited by Chuck Williams (Oxmoor House, 2009).