Robin Anish | The Table is Set: Run as fast as you can ... to make gingerbread men

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"Run, run, as fast as you can! You can't catch me! I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

Indeed, this was a sprightly Gingerbread Man, who could out run a little old woman and a little old man, a pig, a hungry cow and a horse until he was finally out foxed by a fox!

"The Gingerbread Man" is an old folktale, a story whose origins are anonymous, but continued to be passed on over time through word of mouth. A version of the story was first put to print in the May, 1875, issue of St. Nicholas Magazine, a popular children's monthly of the time, and continues to be published in varying versions to this day.

It was so many years ago, decades, I'm afraid, that I remember my mother reading me "The Gingerbread Man." What a fun little story to read out loud to kids with its progressive, rhythmic verse. I loved it; I still love it!

I do believe some of the best memories children have are of being read to. Spend an afternoon baking and decorating gingerbread cookies with the children in your life. Afterward, snuggle them up in a warm blanket with a cookie in hand and read them a story — and what would be more perfect than "The Gingerbread Man"?

GINGERBREAD COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup unsulphured molasses

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg beaten

4 cups flour, plus more for rolling

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

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1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For decorating: Royal icing (recipe follows), sprinkles, cinnamon candies, raisins

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan, stir in brown sugar, molasses, salt and spices. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, let cool to lukewarm then beat in the egg.

Whisk together remaining ingredients. Gradually beat into creamed mixture. Divide dough in half. Shape each into a disk; cover. Refrigerate until easy to handle, about 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion of dough to 1/8-inch thickness for crispy cookies or 1/4-inch thickness for a softer cookie. Cut with floured cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart on greased or parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake until edges are firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Frost and decorate.

ROYAL ICING

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound powdered sugar

1/2 cup pasteurized egg whites (readily available in refrigerated section of supermarket)

1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon juice

Optional: food coloring

DIRECTIONS:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until frothy. Gradually add confectioners' sugar gradually and mix on low speed until well blended.

Beat on high until mixture forms glossy peaks, about 5 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired.

If frosting is too thick, add a few drops of water to desired consistency. Frosting will harden as it sets.


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