Jumbo Gingerbread Folk

Jumbo Gingerbread Folk via Sweetapolita

Gingerbread, in any form, makes me genuinely happy. And nostalgic. And as much as I get tempted to create weird and wonderful gingerbread confections, in my heart I feel compelled to embrace the utmost in tradition and go with the classic holiday cookie: the gingerbread man . . . or woman. Heck, let us just call them gingerbread folk. Timeless, tasty and so darn cute.

What I love about vintage gingerbread folk is that they are actually sort of girly and boyish all at once. My inspiration for these cookies (not that the holidays alone aren’t enough gingerbread inspiration) came from this adorable little guy whom I spotted on Pinterest awhile back (originally from here). I just can’t get enough of him. So my cakelets and I created some classic gingerbread folk, but rather than create a whole village of small ones, we decided to do something different and create a jumbo version . . .

Jumbo Gingerbread Folk via Sweetapolita

Cakelet approved! As I sat down to source a jumbo cutter, I remember when we created the Little Hands Sugar Cookies last year, we simply made a template out of cardstock and then I cut the dough using an x-acto-style knife. It worked so well, that I figured we could do the same with the mega gingerbread man. (That being said, you could do that with any shape you like.) So we made ours about 8″ x 11″, which was perfect for printing the template straight from the computer.

Jumbo Gingerbread Folk via Sweetapolita

The dough itself is my go-to gingerbread recipe, and dare I call this my Perfect Gingerbread Cookie recipe. It’s spicy, dark and rolls like a dream. It bakes up with a slight crisp around the edge, but the remainder of the cookie is semi-soft. (If you over-bake they will be dry and crispy). I use cooking molasses, which is a very robust molasses (not as robust as blackstrap, but a mix of fancy and blackstrap). It also makes for handsomely dark gingerbread men, but if you’re not into strong molasses flavour, you can always use any molasses you like. I should mention that, I’ve tried many-a-gingerbread-dough, and this recipe is a hybrid of what I liked about each one. If you chill, chill, chill the cookies will keep their shape nicely, but (unlike sugar cookies) they will expand a tad.

With a quick snip of the shape from the cardstock, you can then cut around the template, pop it onto your baking sheet (1 per sheet in this case), chill and bake. Since they’re so big (the recipe makes 7 total), hand-cutting isn’t really that tedious. I’ve included the template I used, but honestly you could even draw your own if you prefer a slightly different shape. You can even have your kids draw their own and you can cut out and bake their own version. Either way, this is such a fun project for kids (big and small).

Our cakelets loved this and it kept them busy for the longest time (yes!). I used two resealable plastic bags for royal icing then filled some cupcake liners with an array of chocolate chips, dragees, sprinkles, candy canes, jelly dots, and more and let them do their thing.

Before they started, I printed a bunch of the templates for the girls to colour, just for fun and to possibly design their cookies. Reese opted for a super-classic and conservative design, and followed her paper design to a tee.

Neve opted to ditch the design and went balls-to-the-wall topping-happy with her cookie. We all had a giggle about this, and thought –with all of that candy piled on there–her cookie won the prize for the most delightful and delicious looking. ♥

Happy Jumbo Gingerbread Folk!

Just when I thought our cookies were jumbo, I came across this cutter decoration last night while at my local HomeSense. I almost died. My heart literally skipped a beat! That would have been the best $49.99, I’d ever spent. Sadly it would never fit in my car.

Jumbo Gingerbread Folk via Sweetapolita

For now, we’ll stick with the not-as-jumbo version. I kept my decorations pretty simple: royal icing swirls/eyes/mouths, jelly dot buttons and cheeks and candy heart noses. ♥

The Perfect Gingerbread Cookie

Yield: 7 jumbo gingerbread folk (8" x 11")

A dark, robust and spicy gingerbread cookie with a slightly crispy edge and semi-soft center. This cookie dough rolls like a dream and is ideal for cutting gingerbread folk, or any other desired shape.

Ingredients

  • 7 cups (910 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons (12 g) cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons (12 g) ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (11 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (227 g)(2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (235 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1-1/2 cups (355 ml) cooking molasses*
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda, cloves and nutmeg. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and beat in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl between additions. Add molasses and vanilla and beat until completely incorporated.
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Dough should be soft (not dry or crumbly) but not sticky. If sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Remove 1/2 of dough from bowl, make a ball, and place on a large piece of plastic wrap on counter.Wrap the sides of wrap over the ball, then press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2" thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Repeat with 2nd half of dough. Chill both discs of dough for at least 2 hours.
  5. Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of lightly floured parchment or wax paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place two 1/4" wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it's flush with dowels--they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or freezer for 15 minutes (or more).
  8. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters or template of choice, placing them on a baker's half sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment), with 2" clearance around each one and the edge of sheet. Place sheet with cookies into freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Bake for 7 minutes, tap tray on counter, and return to oven, rotating tray. Bake until edges just start to brown, about 6 more minutes. Be careful not to over-bake, or cookies will be dry.
  9. Cool sheets on wire racks for 20 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling. If cookies are too fragile, you can cool completely on trays.

Notes

*Use cooking molasses for a more dark and robust gingerbread cookie, or if you prefer a lighter tasting gingerbread, use fancy/unsulphured molasses.

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Royal Icing

Ingredients

  • 3-3/4 cups (454 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons (20 g) meringue powder
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (90 ml) water, plus more for thinning
  • Flavouring/extract to taste (nothing oil-based) such as, almond extract, rosewater, vanilla extract (clear if you want the icing to remain very white), etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Use a paper towel to wipe the bowl of an electric mixer and a rubber spatula with a few drops of lemon juice. Add all of the ingredients into the bowl and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.
  2. Mix ingredients on low-speed for 12 minutes.
  3. Add very small increments (1 teaspoon at a time) of water until desired piping consistency is achieved.
  4. Keep royal icing covered with plastic wrap at all times. Can be stored covered with a damp cloth and plate (same diameter as top of bowl) on top in bowl in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Here’s the Jumbo Gingerbread Man template. Simply print this onto standard 8.5″ x 11″ thick white paper (I used a basic card-stock) and then cut around the outline. This is also a great template to print for kids to colour. I found this template on a teacher’s resource site, where you can find countless other ideas.
  • Removing the large cookies from the baking sheet can be tricky, so I use this (and for all of my cakes): Wilton Cake and Cookie Lifter.
  • For tips and photos on rolling dough, you can check out a past post, Steps to Making the Perfect Sugar Cookie {and Cookie Pop}.
  • For piping the eyes, mouth and swirls, I used royal icing in a small piping bag fitted with a plain round #3 tip.
  • I secured the jelly dots and hearts with a dab of royal icing.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So, it turns out I’ve been on a bit of a gingerbread kick lately . . .

I love sugar and spice and everything nice, and gingerbread (in any form) is such an old-fashioned treat that I can’t seem to get enough of (even though I seem to eat the entire year’s worth between December 1-December 31st). I make some form of gingerbread every year over the holidays, but yet it never dawned on me that pairing it with chocolate would be so delightful and that it would just all make so much sense . . . until, of course, I made Gingerbread Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Being an SMB (or SMBC) lover, I couldn’t resist tossing some gingerbread spices into a big fluffy batch of Brown Sugar Buttercream, making it the gingerbread variation, for swirling onto holiday cupcakes. I suddenly seem to be using Brown Sugar Buttercream often lately, because it’s such a wonderful base for so many variations (such as here and for the deliciousness that was Peanut Butter Buttercream.

The thing was, I knew I wanted to make little gingerbread cookie toppers, and if I had made gingerbread cupcakes to go along with the gingerbread buttercream, that would have made them triple gingerbread cupcakes which seemed a bit, well, spicy (although, that may not be a bad thing–I will try this and get back to you). For this round, adding some rich dark chocolate to the idea just felt right.

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Then I remembered how much I’d wanted to try the chocolate cupcake recipe from a book I recently received: Making Cupcakes with Lola, which was written by the talented baker duo from Lola’s in the UK. This is one of the loveliest cupcake books I’ve read, and I’ve studied it for weeks–the cupcakes are a mix of classic and creative and the gorgeous photography & styling just brings it all to life.

I am eager to try many of their more unusual, or as they call it, “over the top” cupcakes (think Masala Chai Tea cupcakes, Gingerbread Latte cupcakes and more), but I couldn’t resist starting with their classic chocolate cupcake recipe. It stood out to me because they use both melted chocolate and cocoa powder and calls for no other liquid ingredient aside from 4 eggs. I was kind of intrigued! It’s a lighter, fluffier chocolate cake as opposed to the more fudgy oil-based chocolate cake I often use, which was a fun change, and I loved the double chocolate result.

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So once I had my heart set on dark chocolate & gingerbread cupcakes, it dawned on me that my little gingerbread cookie toppers simply must be dipped in the finest dark chocolate — just makes good sense, right? I actually love making tiny gingerbread folk versus the standard size, because they are so cute and they are a perfect kid-sized treat. I was pretty excited when I remembered Reese having a teeny tiny house cutter in her playdough tool bin that was the perfect size for little chocolate gingerbread house toppers. So then we had a wee gingerbread girl and her wee gingerbread house. As far as we were concerned, it was kind of awesome. Why do things like this excite me so much? I’ll never know.

I hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday filled with holiday baking and hopefully, for your sake, no shopping! Personally, I like to keep the circus element of my day in our own four walls at this time of year, just as I am today. This thought would comfort me, if it weren’t for the fact that I have barely started my holiday shopping. Minor detail!

I’ll be back very soon with another holiday delight!

P.S. I’m pretty sure we’d jingle Santa’s bells if we left him a plate of these and a tall glass of milk. Maybe we could even add a pretty wrapped box of the chocolate dipped gingerbread cookies for his elves?

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes          {click to print}

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes = Lola’s Chocolate Cupcakes + Gingerbread Swiss Buttercream + Chocolate-Dipped Gingerbread Cookie Toppers

Lola’s Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes

*written (with permission) as it reads in the book, Making Cupcakes with Lola

Ingredients

100 g/3 1/2 oz dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets)

175 g/1 1/2 sticks butter, cubed

225 g/1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (caster) sugar

4 eggs

100 g/3/4 cup self-rising flour

2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder)

a pinch of salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

1. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts and you have a smooth, glossy mixture. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Let cool for 10 minutes.

2. Now beat with an electric hand mixer for 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 10 seconds between each addition.

3. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt into the bowl and beat until blendid.

4. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases. Bake in the preheated oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

Sweetapolita’s Notes

*Caster/castor sugar is also known as superfine sugar. You can create your own superfine sugar by substituting regular granulated sugar and processing it in a food processor until very fine.

**As with any cake or cupcake recipe I bake, I used room temperature eggs (not cold).

***I filled the cupcake liners a little more than I typically do, as I divided the batter evenly among the 12 liners, as directed. They were just over 2/3 full. I typically don’t prefer a “muffin-top” cupcake, but because I knew I wanted a wider cupcake to hold very billowy swirls of buttercream, I went with it. I may never look back.

Gingerbread Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~5 cups, enough for filling and frosting an 8-inch round cake, or frosting 12+ cupcakes.

Ingredients

5 large egg whites (~150 grams/5 ounces)

1 1/4 cup (250 grams/8.5 ounces) dark brown sugar (you can also use light brown sugar)

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks,  340 grams/12 ounces/3/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon ( mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of ground nutmeg

a pinch of salt

Method

1. Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and brown sugar and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140-160°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 5 minutes if you used room temperature egg whites. About 8+ minutes if they were cold.

2. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so and is so important–never add butter to warm meringue). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing on medium-low and it will come back to smooth).

3. Add vanilla, salt and spices, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.

Sweetapolita’s Notes on Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

* Can make buttercream ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

** Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

***If not satiny enough upon rewhip, take 1/3 of buttercream and microwave in a microwave-safe container for ~8 seconds, then add back to mixing bowl and remix with remaining buttercream.

****For more detail about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream, you can find my FAQ here and photo tutorial here.

Chocolate-Dipped Gingerbread Cookies

1. Bake your favourite gingerbread cookie dough, and cut desired shapes–I prefer bite-size cookies in general, especially when using them for cupcake toppers. For these cookies, I tried Martha’s Molasses-Gingerbread Cookies recipe, and I followed it to the letter. I love them because they are dark and have a very deep molasses taste. The dough is gorgeous–just note that you will likely need to add quite a bit of flour while rolling and you will need to flour your cutter often, otherwise it is quite sticky. Once baked, let cookies cool on wire rack. *I found my little house and gingerbread doll cutters in my little girl’s playdough tool box, so don’t feel you have to stick with traditional cookie cutters.

2. Melt some (depending on how many cookies you are covering) quality chocolate in the microwave, and if you follow this easy tempering process (when, using the microwave, your chocolate will be tempered in seconds, which is how we get the chocolate to harden with a nice sheen. For these cookies, I used Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets, which is rich, dark and perfect for covering cookies and is intended for melting down.

3. Dip cookies into chocolate using two forks (or if you have a chocolate-dipping fork), covering entire cookie, or even just half, depending on the look you want to achieve, letting the excess chocolate drip back into bowl.

4. Place on Silpat or wax paper-lined cookie sheet.

5. Place filled sheet in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.

Place upon cupcakes or simply eat them as they are. Or both! Store at room temperature.

Good luck & enjoy!


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