One thing we did was make Gingerbread Lanterns. Now I'd love to say I come up with this idea, but I have to credit FamilyFun.com for this one. To prepare for this, I made the gingerbread up the night before and put it in the fridge until I needed it. The next afternoon, I took it out, rolled the dough out, and cut the four sides of the lantern.
|5 to 5 1/2 cups flour|
|1 teaspoon baking soda|
|1/2 teaspoon salt|
|2 teaspoons ginger|
|1 teaspoon cinnamon|
|1/2 teaspoon nutmeg|
|1/2 teaspoon ground cloves|
|1 cup butter, softened|
|1 cup packed light brown sugar|
|1 egg, at room temperature|
|1 cup molasses|
|1 teaspoon vanilla extract|
1. Sift 3 cups of flour into a large bowl. Combine 2 more cups of flour with the baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, then sift the mixture into the bowl. Stir the ingredients, then set the bowl aside.
2. In another large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and egg until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the molasses and beat until evenly blended, about 1 1/2 minutes. Blend in the vanilla extract.
3. Using a wooden spoon, stir the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture 1 cup at a time. The dough should be firm; if it's not, gradually stir in up to 1/2 cup more flour.
4. Divide the dough in half. Place each piec e in a gallon-size ziplock bag and flatten the dough into a thick rectangle with your hands. Seal the bags and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 with a second batch of dough.
6. Heat the oven to 350°. Working with one piece at a time, remove the dough from the refrigerator and set it on a generously floured cutting board or work surface. With a lightly dusted rolling pin, prepare the by rolling out the chilled dough to a 1/4-inch thickness on a large piece of parchment paper, sprinkling on some flour if the dough sticks. Then, using a 4- by 7-inch piece of cardboard as a template, cut 4 rectangles from the dough, removing any scraps. Transfer the gingerbread pieces to a cookie sheet by topping them first with a piece of parchment paper the size of the cookie sheet, then with the inverted cookie sheet itself. Quickly flip everything over, then remove the top piece of parchment paper.
7. To install the windows, use cookie cutters dipped in flour to cut and remove a few shapes from each gingerbread piece. Unwrap candies in similar colors (you'll need about 2 to 3 for each 21/2-inch cutout) and place them in doubled freezer bags. Hit them gently with a hammer (I used my meat tenderizer tool) to crush them, then generously fill each cutout with crushed candy.
Bake the gingerbread for 12 minutes, then let it cool for at least 1 hour. (The candy windows will be extremely hot! Do not touch them until they have cooled completely.) Only and I found that if we baked the gingerbread first, took them from the oven, then put the pulverized hard candy . Use a spoon to transfer the candy from the bag to the windows. It can get a little sticky on your fingers,
This was so easy. Only was able to make this up while I was working on some other projects. We added a bit more powdered sugar to make it thicker, but it set up wonderfully and all the lanterns survived and made it home safely! I used Alton Brown's recipe for the Royal Icing. Ingredients
- 3 ounces pasteurized egg whites (we used 3 egg whites, though 2 probably would have done the trick)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar
In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add confectioners' sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired. For immediate use, transfer icing to pastry bag or heavy duty storage bag and pipe as desired. If using storage bag, clip corner. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.