Somewhere out there hangs a Norman Rockwell painting of the perfect family gathered together at home for the holidays. There’s a mom and a dad, a son and a daughter, a well groomed dog and a perfectly decorated tree. No dishes in the sink or crayons on the walls. I’m sure the leaves are raked and the laundry is folded too. At least that’s how I remember it and for some reason believed it ought to be each year. But it’s not. Not for me or for anyone else really. For years that bothered me, and if any piece of it was missing I ached for the way things “ought” to be. But there are no perfect houses – certainly no perfect families – and we can waste a lot of precious time comparing our actual lives to the fictional ones we see around us this time of year. Instead, I’ve learned a holiday lesson from the gingerbread houses we bake each year. If I try to make them perfect, no one has any fun. It’s okay if the lampposts are different heights and someone ate the other half of the roof. There is no reason you can’t put stripes on the walls or Minions in the living room. There is no such thing as too many M&Ms, and Bugles make the best kind of trees if they don’t all get eaten in the car on the way to grandma’s house. In other words, gingerbread houses can be a bit messy and every one is different. That’s what makes them fun. This year we’re baking gingerbread house kits (cows and minions optional) and delivering them to some of our special young friends to decorate. They won’t be perfect, and we wouldn’t want them to be.
If you’d like to make an imperfect house for someone in your life (or yourself-you’re never too old for gingerbread!), here is our favorite recipe for easy cutting, long lasting, and delicious gingerbread. The whole process is made easy with these great gingerbread house cookie cutters!
- 1 12 ounce jar of molasses
- ¾ cup sugar
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 6 cups all purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons nutmeg
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
- 1½ teaspoons powdered ginger
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Heat molasses to boiling then whisk in the sugar, butter and milk.
- Remove from heat and stir in dry ingredients.
- Cool just until easy to handle then roll out to about ¼ inch thickness. It will be easier to cut square walls if you roll the dough into a rectangle shape.
- Cut into a front, a back, two walls and two roof pieces. Cut doors and windows as desired. Cut gingerbread children and farm animals with cutters and use scraps to cut rectangles and circles for benches, paving stones, chimneys, etc.
- Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets about 7 minutes then cool completely before building.