This year for my holiday baking I decided to focus on gingerbread. Gingerbread can be traced back to Britain, where certain towns were known for a certain type of gingerbread. For instance Ashbourne was known for their “white” gingerbread while Ormskirk produced more of a “dark” kind. The Edinburgh specialty was more of a shortbread nicknamed “parliament cake” because members of the Scottish Parliament enjoyed it. The idea of shaping and molding gingerbread began in medieval England. Made out of honey, breadcrumbs, cinnamon and pepper, the gingerbread was made into a square and decorated. Gingerbread moulds were beautifully carved and elaborately decorated and were originally called “fairings” because they were bought at fairs. Shaping gingerbread into men and pigs became a tradition for “Guy Fawkes Night” aka “Bonfire Night” in Britain, that continues to this day.
Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Gingerbread Men
While I was on my detox this year, my friend wanted to make gingerbread men, and so I attempted to make them gluten and sugar free. The first time around, they were a little too dry, but the taste was pretty good. Since I’m used to the taste of Stevia, I actually really liked them and found them pretty addictive. I also thought it would be a great base for a cheesecake crust. When I made them a second time I added another egg and some more molasses and they turned out less dry and held together much better.
This is based on Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Men recipe from her Baking Handbook:
MAKES ABOUT 2 DOZEN
Allow 2 -2.5 hours to make
3.5 cups gluten free flour, plus more for dusting
1 ¾ teaspoons xanthan gum
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 ¼ teaspoons ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1.5 teaspoons Stevia syrup
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
2 large eggs
½ cup unsulfured molasses
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice and cloves; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, beat butter, Stevia, and fresh ginger on medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs and molasses to combine. With mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and shape into flattened disks; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Remove dough from the refrigerator, and let stand until slightly softened. (This will help keep the dough from cracking when rolled.) On a large piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour, roll out dough to about ¼ inch thick. To prevent sticking while rolling, occasionally run a large offset spatula under dough, and add more flour. Place parchment paper and dough on another baking sheet; freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes.
Remove dough from freezer; working quickly, cut out with large cookie cutters (If the dough begins to soften too much, return to the freeze for a few minutes.) Using a wide metal spatula, transfer cutouts to prepared baking sheets; chill until firm, about 15 minutes.
Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are crisp but not darkened, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer parchment and cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired with icing, if using. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.