Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gingerbread Men

This week I was one of  the parent helper in Aggie's preschool class.  It is a co-op preschool so about once a month I get to go in and help, and remind myself that I made the right decision in not becoming a preschool teacher  - not that I ever considered it, but I could never teach 4 year olds.  They are fun, but 14 of them all together is a lot, after 3 hours with them I am exhausted.  For the past couple of weeks the class has been reading "The Gingerbread Man."  They have read different variations of the story, acted it out and made various crafts.  To conclude the gingerbread theme the teacher asked if I would like to make gingerbread men cookies with the class.  I enjoy cooking with the kids when I parent help, so of course I agreed.  The kids did a great job and unlike last month when I made Latkes with the class, they were all really engaged and had a lot of fun.
I am still working on the best way to get prepared when cooking with a large number of kids.  In the past I have often tried to do too much with the kids and everyone gets overwhelmed, so this year I am picking one or two elements of the project for the kids to work on and then from there I figure out how to divide the process up so everyone has a chance to participate.  With the gingerbread cookies the dough needed to rest before rolling it out so we couldn't make the dough in class due to time constraints, so I made the dough the night before and broke it into small pieces for the kids to work with.
As the kids came over to the table I put a small dusting of flour down on the table, they then worked on rolling out the dough, cutting out the gingerbread man and decorating with raisin.  This worked well, but I think it would have been even easier if I had given them a small piece of parchment paper to roll the dough out on.  Some of the cookies stuck to the table and I wasn't able to help loosen the cookie before it was decorated, so we got some misshapen cookies. Despite the appearance of some they were delicious and luckily I made an extra large batch and  have dough left to make my own gingerbread man.
The recipe I used was from America's Test Kitchen and is made in a food processor, which I am always a little hesitant about.  It is a very quick and easy recipe that makes a soft spicy cookie, that bakes up nice and evenly - I hate it when gingerbread or any cookie bakes with bumps and lumps.  

Gingerbread Cookies
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup packed Brown Sugar
3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tbs. Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbs. Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp. Salt
12 Tbs. Butter, softened cut into small pieces
3/4 cup Molasses
2 Tbs. Milk

Bake at 350
In a food processor combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda and spices.  Pulse until combined.  Scatter butter over top and process until mixture has a coarse sandy appearance.  In measuring cup combine molasses and milk.  With processor running add molasses milk mixture, mix until the dough is moist and forms a soft clump.  Roll dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a  1/4" thick.  Leave dough between parchment paper, place on cookie sheet and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.  Cut out desired shapes, place on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes depending on size of shape.