Recently, while Robert and his mom were in Chicago running a 5K (and checking out C.S. Lewis's original, real-life wardrobe, thus carefully cultivating our boy's nerdery), TwoBert and I had a good bit of one-on-one time. TwoBert loves these opportunities, because although he loves his brother, he also loves not having him around to constantly beat on him.
On the first night, while we were figuring out how we'd spend our Saturday, he and I read "The Gingerbread Man" together. And he came away enthralled by the ideas that 1) you could cook something in search of companionship, and 2) that something could end up such an impudent little shit. So he asked, "Dad, can we make gingerbread cookies?"
"Hell yes!" I said. Because cooking with kids is a blast, especially now that my kitchen is larger than a pay toilet.
So I Googled recipes and found this one by Paula Deen. Her food is usually disgusting and unhealthful, but I like her anyway because she reminds me of my late aunt. First came the Wet Stuff:
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup molasses
The first step is to blend the sugar and butter into a homogenous goop. I don't have a mixer, but I do have 1) an eager son and 2) a healthy store of pent-up angst and aggression. Together, we mashed that stuff up pretty quick until it resembled a gorgeously fragrant lava. (And we used "blackstrap molasses," just because it sounds kick-ass.) Then came the Dry Stuff:
- 3-3/4 cups AP flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
We mixed that all together and dumped it in the lava, and before too long we had a huge loaf of awesome that needed to be sealed in plastic and left in the fridge for an hour. We ended up 1) leaving it overnight and 2) snacking on it mercilessly.
The next day, we had the most awesome toy a six-year old could want: modeling clay you can eat! And this is the best thing, seriously, because TwoBert could make anything he wanted and vent all sorts of little-boy belligerence. He cut out the little men and made them fight each other, and mashed them paper-flat with the rolling pin, and even let loose an army of delicious worms on his father:
We cut out the little gingerboys and girls, baked them for 10-12 minutes at 350º, and let them cool.
The recipe also gave me the option to make icing with confectioner's sugar and milk. I chose instead to drop $3 on a tube of premade stuff, so TwoBert could go to town on the decorating:
At one point, he came up with this family: four kids and a grumpy-looking dad with ... a hygiene problem? Extra nipples?
(Turns out, he was wearing a vest with extra buttons.)
I went with a simpler, three-button approach. And when I finished this plate, which TwoBert had prepped entirely on his own, I noticed there was only one boy amid the girls:
All in all, these cookies gave us two fun afternoons of making them and--since the recipe makes several dozen of these little guys--several more of chowing on them. When Robert got back, he was so jealous that I had to promise him we'd all do it again. I anticipate a lot more free-form sculpting, with a leitmotif of space weaponry.