HS notes: Whatever you do, don't over bake these guys - they will dry right out. If anything under bake them just a shade (they will continue to bake for another couple of minutes once you pull them from the oven). Big cookies take longer to cook than tiny ones, keep that in mind as well.
People often like to use bright white royal icing to decorate gingerbread cookies. It doesn't smear once it sets, and it can bind the seams of a gingerbread house like concrete. Many recipes for royal icing call for raw egg whites - this make a lot of people including myself nervous and unfortunately pasteurized egg whites don't whip up the way pasteurized egg whites do. Another option is to use meringue powder, a powdery blend made of dried egg whites and other ingredients (gums?)...here's a brief on royal icing in case you are interested, there is also an evolving discussion here on eGullet. I'll also add, don't bother using organic powdered sugar in your royal icing, it tends to mix up a very unappetizing shade of light gray.
4 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup dark natural cane sugar (i.e. muscavado), or alternately use a dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
2/3 cup organic unsulfured molasses (blackstrap)
large grain sugar (turbinado) for decoration
popsicle sticks (optional)
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
In a large bowl by hand (or with an electric mixer) cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix again until light and creamy. Blend in the eggs one at a time and then the molasses. Add the flour mixture in two additions either by hand or on low speed. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap each in plastic and chill for an hour or so.
Heat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the middle, and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Set aside.
Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop roughly 1/8-inch thick and cut into gingerbread men (or other desired shapes). Transfer to baking sheets and arrange a popsicle stick underneath each (if desired), no need to press the stick aggressively into the dough, gently is fine - the cookies will bake right onto the sticks. Sprinkle with sugar (optional) and bake for 7 -10 minutes (for 3 - 4-inch cookies), less for smaller cookies, more for larger.
Makes about 3 dozen four-inch gingerbread men.
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