Call me a stereotype of holiday cheer, but lately I’ve had an overwhelming craving for gingerbread anything — cookies, cakes, lattes, pretty much anything I can ingest. It’s like I’ve become the insatiable gingerbread woman. I’m a little worried that soon I will sprout raisin buttons and rock sugar freckles. I just can’t get enough.
Surely I’m not alone in my gingerbread fixation. This time of year, kitchens around the world bust out the ginger and cloves and turn up the spice. When it comes to spiced cookies, the Germans have lebkuchen, the Danish have honningkager, and in the States we have, among many kinds of ginger cookies, gingerbread men.
Gingerbread men will always hold a special place in my heart. When I was little, my mother used them as part of her carrot and stick approach to make my brother and I behave while she ran errands.
See, the Bloomingdale’s in the mall by our house had a little bakery in its kitchen section, and they sold the most wonderfully chewy and delicious gingerbread men. So she struck a deal: if my brother and I behaved and didn’t cause any trouble, we could each get our own gingerbread man when she finished her errands.
Parents around the world take note: her plan worked like a charm. In fact, not only would I be on my best behavior, but I’d also make sure my brother stayed in line so he wouldn’t spoil it for the both of us. She’s a crafty one, that mother of mine.
Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to recapture the same chewy, thick gingerbread sold at our Bloomingdale’s. I thought the recipe below might do it, but although the recipe yields delicious spice cookies (and is definitely worth making), the gingerbread men are not the same as the cookies from my youth.
These cookies, based on a Dorie Greenspan recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit, are crisp around the edges, with just a slight chew in the middle and are deliciously spiced. They are the perfect cookie with a cup of tea in the afternoon, or with a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert. But they aren’t the thick and cakey gingerbread men I remember.
So, alas, my quest continues. But in the meantime, I’ll have another one of these cookies. Cakey or not, they are still delicious.
[Edited to add: I have submitted these cookies to Food Blogga's "Eat Christmas Cookies" event :).]