November 23, 2012 by another1bitesthecrust
Halloween and Christmas lend themselves to being two of the best holidays for fun, creative treats. I got inspired to combine two of the defining features of each holiday: skeletons and gingerbread men.
I saw a post on Pinterest of dismembered “ginger-dead men” and used it as a starting point for my gingerbread skeletons.
Making gingerbread dough is remarkably easy, except that molasses isn’t fun to work with. I’ve read and tried in the past a cool tip when working with molasses, honey and any other sticky, viscous ingredient: spray the measuring cup with some Pam non-stick spray before you measure out the molasses. It will slide right out of the measuring cup and you won’t have to deal with trying to scrape it all out and wait for it to slowwwwly make its way into the bowl. It works, I just worry about whether or not the extra grease or flavor from the Pam will affect the dough. Doubtful, but I still stick to (get it??) the hard way.
The recipe I used called for way too much flour, so I ended up adding an extra egg and some water to get it to the right consistency.
Once the dough is thoroughly chilled, flour the counter top (I use a pastry mat, I love it and it keeps the counters clean!), and roll out the dough. For crispier cookies, roll it thinner. For plumper and slightly softer cookies, roll it thicker.
Flour the cookie cutter and get to work. This is the easy part. They bake and cool off really quickly so there’s minimal waiting time to get to the good stuff.
I whipped up some buttercream icing and added some piping gel to help the icing be a little bit softer for the small, detailed piping while still keeping its shape and consistency. I used a #3 tip in the piping bag.
I did a quick Google search on some images of skeletons to get an idea of how exactly to recreate them with icing. After one very very failed attempt at a skull, I opted to make red “x” eyes and just pipe the bones. Unless you’re incredibly artistic (which I am absolutely not…) or incredibly ambitious (which I am but the lack of artistic ability once again trumps said ambition) the skulls will be very difficult!
**Update! I came across this link today and felt much better about myself after seeing that one of the skeleton styles that I was trying to recreate was in fact a cookie cutter/press. Filling the indents would still be difficult but far easier than free-handing!
There were lots of different styles of bones that I experimented with. No particular style seemed leaps and bounds better than any other, but one element that I think makes the bones look as real as possible is getting the rounded “T” shape at each end. I really think this made the biggest impact on them looking good! I got lazy after a while and they started to look more like inverted arrows or “V” shaped but taking the time to make them more like little balls is definitely worth it.
I think that for me, not being uber artistic, I needed to pick a skeleton style and practice on a ton more gingerbread men to get the proportions, placement and details just right. These definitely weren’t the easiest, or quickest, to decorate and got pretty tiresome after a while. One batch of gingerbread dough makes a lot of gingerbread men, so plan for a lot of time or a lot of people to help get them all done!
One last observation I had about them is that gingerbread tends to be very dry and usually Christmas gingerbread men are heavily iced and decorated. There was a noticeably low icing-to-cookie ratio on these, Maybe that just means have some extra icing on hand when it comes time to eat them, or maybe even use them as dippers in hot chocolate or coffee.