Fun to make and delicious to eat, these stained-glass gingerbread ornaments will add a special touch to your tree.
Yum. Gingerbread. This sweet, spicy, delightful treat dates back to the ancient world. As far back as 2000 B.C., small gingerbread cakes were adorned with symbols of the sun and eaten to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Gingerbread’s popularity grew over the centuries and today, the holiday season is just not the same without partaking of this rich indulgence in the form of homemade cookies and cakes.
But if the only gingerbread you and your kids get to eat is from the pre-packaged, ready to assemble gingerbread house kit, you are doing yourself a disservice. The gingerbread from these kits is a pale imitation of the real thing. And what’s more, your kids miss out on the fun of baking gingerbread from scratch, smelling the delicious aroma and creating something unique.
Time to try something new. These stained-glass gingerbread ornaments are beautiful to behold, easy and fun to make, and scrumptious to eat. Just make sure you make enough for you and the kids to eat right away – or you may end up with no gingerbread ornaments for the tree!
The Fun Begins!
Step 1: Prepare your ingredients and tools (see sidebar).
Step 2: Combine ingredients. Resist the urge to do this yourself. It may be a little messy when they do it, but kids love measuring, pouring and stirring. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in molasses. In a separate bowl, combine ginger, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and cloves. Add dry ingredients to molasses mixture, stirring just until dough comes together. Form the dough into two balls, roughly the same size. Cover them with foil and put in fridge for two hours.
Step 3: Play with the kids, go for a walk, trim the tree, or otherwise find some way to amuse the young bakers for a couple of hours.
Step 4: Cut out the cookies. First, you’ll need to roll out each ball of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8th inch thickness. Let each of the kids try their hand at this, but you’ll likely have to finish the task. Let the kids choose their favourite cookie cutter and start cutting out shapes until all the dough is used up. Then hand each of them a skewer to make a small hole at the top of each cookie for threading the ornament later.
Step 5: Make designs in the cookies. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (to prevent the candy from sticking) and move the cookie cutouts gently onto the sheet. Hand out the mini cookie cutters to your helpers and ask them to exercise their artistic talents by cutting patterns in the cookie. Remove the small bits of cookie dough that form. (Bake them along with the cookies for an instant treat for the kids.)
Step 6: Prepare the stained glass. Arm the kids with a mallet (or a hammer if they are older), line up the colourful suckers, still in their package, and smash them into tiny bits. Open the packs and pour each colour into a separate bowl.
Step 7: Make the stained glass windows. Taking the bowls of smashed suckers, get the kids to fill in the small cutouts with the colours of their choice, to just over the level of the dough. This is sticky operation, so you’ll want to keep a damp cloth on hand for the kids to wipe their fingers on frequently. Use the pastry brush or new toothbrush to remove any errant bits of coloured candy from the dough.
Step 8: Bake the ornaments. Six to eight minutes in the pre-heated oven will do the trick. Kids can watch the process through the oven glass under your supervision and a safe distance. When the sugar in the suckers is bubbling and the cookie edges are firm to the touch, the ornaments will be done. (The sugar must be bubbling or the candy will crystallize.) Only parents or older kids should remove the pans from the oven.
Step 9: Thread the ornaments. Allow the cookies to cool thoroughly, munching on the tiny cut-out bits in the meantime. When they are cool, let the kids indulge in the cookies you have set aside for them to eat. Then cut pieces of thread with the scissors approximately 4 inches long and thread through the hole in the top of the remaining cookies. Tie a small knot. Voila! Your ornaments are ready.
Step 10: Hang the ornaments on the tree. Then stand back and let everyone admire their handy work. The kids will be proud to tell grandma and grandpa and other guests how they helped make the tree look so beautiful.
What You Will Need
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp cloves
- ½ cup firmly packed
- dark brown sugar
- 8 tbsp soft butter
- ½ cup fancy molasses
- suckers, various colour
- 3 or 4 inch Christmas cookie cutters – circles, stars, snowflakes, etc.
- 1 inch mini cookie cutters (available at Bulk Barn)
- parchment paper
- mallet or hammer
- large spoon
- two large bowls
- 1 inch pastry brush or new toothbrush
- wooden skewers
- cookie sheet
- thread and scissors