The silver lining in having my beloved laptop down for several days was that my productivity increased by at least 60%. It is amazing how much you can get done without the constant distraction of twitter, email, blogland etc. Presents were wrapped, banisters were swathed in garlands and twinkle lights, cards were written, packages packaged, and I baked 1 million dozen gingerbread cookies (possible slight exaggeration), and a few dozen Brandy Snaps.
Gingerbread cookies are our staple Christmas treat. I make scads, leaving them plain without icing or candies, figuring that way the boys can have them as snacks throughout December without wreaking too much havoc on themselves nutritionally. Really they are not so bad, much lower in fat and sugar than most other cookies, with some iron from the molasses...it could be worse. And the smell of them while baking! It's everything good about home and Christmas and warm things made with love. Yay!
I use the same gingerbread recipe as my Grandmother used. Our only generational Christmas recipe, because after long years of not keeping Christmas most of our traditions are ones we've started from scratch in recent years. I use this recipe in its original form, which for me is huge. I tweak and adjust and substitute ingredients with wild abandon when I'm in the kitchen, but this recipe was already perfect. Simple, trustworthy, and versatile in texture (can be hard and strong for gingerbread houses or soft and chewy depending on baking time and storage).
1 1/2 c. molasses (I use a combo of Blackstrap and lighter cooking molasses)
1c. lightly packed brown sugar
2/3c. cold water
1/3c. butter (or Earth Balance margarine to make them vegan)
7c. unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground dried ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp each of allspice, cinnamon and cloves
Cream butter and sugar together. Add molasses and water, mix well. Combine dry ingredients, and add slowly. Cover and chill 2 hrs. Roll out as desired. Bake 10-12 min @ 350F on parchment lined baking sheets.
The fresher the spices the better, and do "fluff up" your flour with a fork before measuring. This makes a lot of rather heavy batter, using a stand mixer is best, but if you have to hand mix enlist the help of someone strong. And yes, you should chill the dough, but if you are impatient/rushed like I often am, it is workable right away (at least it is in a cool house).
Hope everyone's holiday prep is going well. 13 more sleeps!