Around the holidays, we’re surrounded by food. Family dinners, workplace potlucks, aisles and aisles of festive candy at grocery stores, not to mention all those friends who give you tasty treats as gifts to celebrate. When we’re so inundated with food (or anything, for that matter), we forget that others have different situations that lend to different holiday experiences for them. While I’ve never experienced a Christmas where I’ve had to go without, there are many in need, all over the world, and that’s why I wanted to participate in the Giftmas Blog Tour this year. December 6 – 12, we’re sharing holiday food anecdotes and family recipes to instill a little good cheer and support the Edmonton Food Bank.
‘Tis the season! I challenge you to provide a meal for someone in need, which is way easier than you think. $1 provides three meals for someone in need. Donate $5 to positively affect 15 lives. (This is the only time I enjoy math!)
And then…read today’s blog post by Stephanie A. Cain, fantasy writer extraordinaire whose creativity and storytelling follows her into the kitchen. Merry Giftmas!
And with that, I’ll turn it over to Stephanie…
Happy Giftmas! I’m joining this blog tour in support of the Edmonton Food Bank, so I’m here to talk to you about baking and Christmas bloodshed. Or something like that.
Let me start with a confession: I hate being in the kitchen.
I know, it’s weird for someone to write for a Christmas food blog tour when she hates cooking and baking. But here’s the thing–Christmas is the one time I don’t hate being in the kitchen.
My mom is an amazing cook and baker, and I seriously think her love language is feeding people. She taught me how to bake, and at Christmas, I love baking holiday cookies while listening to the Carpenters Christmas and Trans-Siberian Orchestra albums.
Making gingerbread boys has been a family tradition over the past decades–I have pictures of this going all the way back to when I was in middle school. Every year we try to get Mom a new cookie cutter. She mixes up the dough ahead of time (usually at least a quadruple recipe) and puts it in the fridge for a day or two.
Then my parents and I get together and bake. Dad rolls out the dough, I cut the cookies out, Mom handles the oven, and when they’re cool, I decorate.
You remember that Foxtrot cartoon where Jason does terrible things to the gingerbread men? That’s totally me. A couple of years ago, I got a set of “Ninja-bread Men” cookie cutters, which gave me plenty of excuses for head wounds and amputated limbs.
What? The Christmas story has its gruesome bits. Don’t forget about the Slaughter of the Innocents!
One year I cast Lord of the Rings in gingerbread. One year my gingerbread men were the survivors of a zombie attack. We’ve also had gingerbread wolves, complete with red icing around their muzzles. Then there was the year we thought it would be fun to make a gingerbread house. We quickly discovered how not fun that actually is, but the good news is, even an ugly gingerbread house tastes pretty good.
The recipe we use is from Mom’s battered, stained, well-used Betty Crocker Cookbook from 1972, the year she and Dad got married. (Picture the Book of Mazarbul from Fellowship of the Ring, but exchange recipes for dwarf records and vanilla-stains for bloodstains, and you’ll have an idea of how beat-up this cookbook is.)
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup water
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Cream shortening and sugar. Blend in molasses, water, flour, salt, soda, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Cover; chill 2 to 3 hours.
Heat oven to 375. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut with gingerbread boy cutter [or ninjabread boy, or gingerwolf, or…]; place on ungreased baking sheet.
[Betty recommends using raisins for the face and bits of candied cherries for other decorations. We use cinnamon red-hots for eyes and do the rest with icing after they’re baked.]
Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheet. Makes about fifteen 4-inch cookies.
Like I said, we usually make at least a quadruple recipe, because a lot of dough is consumed while rolling and baking (shh, I am convinced salmonella is a conspiracy cooked up–get it, cooked up–by the oven industry). We also give gingerbread boys as a present to my uncle, because they’re his favorite cookies. There is laughter and shrieking and occasionally flour fights during the making of gingerbread boys, and it’s honestly one of my favorite traditions of Christmas.
If you decide to have fun with our recipe, make sure to take lots of pictures, and email me the results at firstname.lastname@example.org! And remember, as part of our 2016 Giftmas Blog Tour, we’re soliciting donations to the Edmonton Food Bank to help someone else have a happy holiday!
Stephanie A. Cain writes epic & urban fantasy. She grew up in Indiana, where much of her urban fantasy is set. She works at a museum and dreams of living somewhere without winter. A proud crazy cat lady, she is happily owned by Strider, Eowyn, and Eustace Clarence Scrubb.