To me, life and its experiences have always been intrinsically tied to the food we create and consume together. Food has a way of wrapping around our hearts, stirring up magic, and unlocking memories. And have you noticed how everyone’s favorite recipe has a story? I always feel like it’s such a privilege to hear these stories from a dear friend or beloved family member while they’re cooking or serving the dish. So as a special holiday treat, I asked a few of the Behaviorists to share their own holiday stories along with a favorite recipe.
Holly’s going to kick things off this week. Read on to discover her recipe for the Perfect Gingerbread Cookies!
As I think back to the holidays of my childhood (and even more recent ones), so many of my memories are attached to special dishes and those that made them. Mimi’s signature cherry pies are famously fought over by the entire family, and my mom’s breakfast sausage balls are going to be near impossible to resist this year as I have my first vegetarian Christmas. When my brother got married several years ago, we were introduced to his mother-in-law’s top secret “Trash” (an insanely addictive party mix), and I have spent more than an appropriate amount of time scheming to get the recipe…no luck so far!
It was difficult to choose just one of our family’s many holiday staple recipes to share with you all, but ultimately I settled on the best gingerbread cookie recipe you will ever come across. And I’ll put the Holly Jolly Guarantee on that! Gingerbread has had a big piece of my heart for as long as I can remember. You just can’t help but smile at a house made of candy, frosting, and delicious gingerbread!
One of my favorite annual activities is participating in a local gingerbread house contest, and I’m looking forward to the days when Trent and Emily can enter alongside me. Whenever I’m asked to bring a dish or dessert to a function, I nearly always bring cookies. And you better believe that if there is any hint of fall or holiday in the air, I’ll bring gingerbread boy cookies decorated to match whatever the event may be!
Plus, while I do have a ton of memories tied to holiday foods I’ve eaten—how they taste, how they smell, how they made me feel—the most treasured memories come from the times when I was actually in the kitchen making something with loved ones. I’ve made these with my mother and brother when I was a child, then with my friends in high school, as gifts for peers in college, and now I’m making them with my own kids!
But the main reason I selected this cookie recipe is because it’s delicious, foolproof, and easy. The cookies come out perfect every. single. time. It was originally found in, of all places, a children’s alphabet cookbook. My cousins and I each received a copy of the book from our grandmother for Christmas when we were very young. It’s been slightly modified over the years through trial and error. When I dig out the book each holiday season, it’s fun to see how much use the “G” page has gotten and think about the memories attached to each little fingerprint and icing smudge that have accumulated on that page over time.
- ½ cup of sugar
- ½ cup of shortening
- ½ cup of dark molasses
- ¼ cup of water
- ¾ teaspoon of salt
- ¾ teaspoon of ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon of ground allspice
- 2½ cups of white flour
- Beat sugar, shortening, molasses, and water in large bowl on low for 2 minutes and then on high for 2 to 3 minutes until well blended.
- Stir in remaining ingredients until a thick, moist dough forms. Do not overstir.
- Cover and refrigerate until chilled for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees for dark/non-stick pan.
- Liberally flour your surface, the dough ball, and your rolling pin before rolling dough out to ⅜" thickness. When in doubt, lean toward a slightly thicker cookie for these.
- Cut your gingerbread boys slowly. If your dough is chilled enough and you have used enough flour on your surface, they will easily come up without compromising their shape. Arrange them at least 2 inches apart on your ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 8 minutes. Every oven I have ever used has baked these perfectly at the 8 minute mark. It must be holiday magic! Let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then on a baking rack for 10 more minutes or until completely cooled.
Now is the fun part! Decorate these however you’d like. Be creative, nontraditional, heavy-handed with the frosting—whatever you’d like! And, of course, let the whole family join in. The cookies will be gone in a flash, but you’ll shape holiday memories for a lifetime and hopefully start a family tradition!
And now, you guys know me, I have to leave you with at least one little extra—a simple printable holiday recipe card. Share this link with your family and have each member fill out a special recipe. Or you could print out several copies and bring them to Christmas this year for a recipe exchange! How great would it be to have all of your favorite family recipes in one place? You can even print out your own selection of recipes, make them into a book, and give it as a gift!
Happy holidays to all of our readers! Make sure to send us photos of your gingerbread creations!