As I sit here at the kitchen counter eating my plate of pancakes, watching the light snow fall, it’s finally hitting me that Christmas is almost here. I’ve known its coming. I’ve seen all the lights and decorations around. I’ve heard nothing but Christmas carols for more than a month now. I’ve seen all the craziness of Christmas shopping, especially the past few days. But it’s in the quiet calm that I really get to think about it without the cynical voice in my head shouting, “is it over yet?” It’s while sitting here, only a few days before Christmas, that I realize how much of the season and its traditions that I’ve missed out on. For the first time in the 27 years of my life, I don’t have a Christmas tree up. No twinkling lights. No beautiful ornaments. Nothing. Not one speck of Christmas decoration is up anywhere in my house, other than the 2 cards I received from my Grandma and my aunt. I never had the time to go to my parents to pick any of it up. Without a tree to put them under, I haven’t even bothered to wrap presents yet, not that there’s many of them to begin with. They’re all just sitting in a bag in the closet, waiting patiently for me to find the time. The only thing that’s even remotely felt like Christmas this year is the baking. All the delicious holiday flavors that have come out of my oven in recent days. They’re the only things that make it feel like Christmas around here. And it just wouldn’t be Christmas without some Gingerbread Men.
Growing up, we never made Gingerbread Men. Those involved too much skill--something we seriously lacked. It wasn’t until I really got into baking several years ago that I even attempted them, and now I can’t imagine a holiday without them. They've become my new tradition, even though I'm not sure the rest of my family actually likes them. I found this recipe on Allrecipes.com, and I’ve never had reason to find any other. It's fantastic, and fantastically easy. The dough is some of the most forgiving I’ve ever made, and it rolls out and cuts beautifully. With just the right amount of spice, these are the perfect Gingerbread Men. Just make sure you leave them covered at all times if you want moist and chewy cookies. These will crisp up fairly quickly if left out.
I didn't get to go all out with my decorating this year. These guys are just simple, but cute. There just wasn't enough time to do everything I wanted to do. I didn't even get to make my sugar cookies! But maybe next year. Maybe next year I'll put my tree up. And decorate. And send out holiday cards that I've told myself I would do for the past 3 years and still haven't. I'll just keep telling myself, maybe next year.
From All Recipes.com
Makes about 3 ½ to 4 dozen
½ cup shortening
½ cup packed light brown sugar
3 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ cup molasses
¼ cup water
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger; set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream shortening and sugar. Blend flour mixture into creamed mixture alternately with molasses and water. Turn dough out onto clean counter, divide in half. Pat each half down into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
4. Roll dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut shapes out with cutters, and transfer to prepared pans.
5. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies spring back lightly in center. Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.