Episode: Tarts and Flowers
Gingerbread men have become synonymous with the Holiday Season, but when I think of those guys, my mind goes straight to Little Audrey. My grandparents had one nondescript little VHS tape titled The Gingerbread Man, and we watched it quite frequently. Tarts and Flowers easily became one of my favorite cartoons and it still ranks up there. I’m a sucker for anthropomorphic food and I’ve always been a sweet fiend. Needless to say, I want to live in Cakeland! Well, if I did, no one else would. I’d eat all of my neighbors.
Everything about this cartoon is just so darn charming. Angel Cake getting dolled up for her wedding with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and a cherry. And my favorite part is when Little Audrey busts out an egg beater and whips the Old Milk Stream to stop that nasty Devil Food Cake. And I can’t forget about that heroic, little Gingerbread Man. He was in a hurry because he was getting married and he invited Little Audrey to follow him if she could keep up. I was so used to hearing stories about a mischievous cookie, so the friendly one was a nice change.
The recipe that Little Audrey follows from her radio chef is kind of odd because she adds things like mustard and a cake of yeast. The Gingerbread Man also started out as batter before he went into the oven. I know that gingerbread can be made a thousand different ways, so I’m just going to stick with the rolling and cutting cookie dough method.
Recipe makes about 13 giant gingerbread men, but it varies with the size and shape of the cookie cutter.
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves (It’s a gingerbread must, but I don’t really like it, so I say optional.)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Black and Brown food coloring
If you want to avoid raw eggs, use these in place of the egg whites:
3 tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup warm water
Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ground ginger in a medium bowl.
Beat butter and brown sugar together in a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, molasses, and grated ginger and beat together another minute. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time and stir until combined. Divide dough in two and flatten each half into a disk. Cover each disk with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Lightly dust a counter with flour and roll out a disk to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes and place on a cookie sheet. Re-roll and cut until you run out of dough and continue this process with the other disk. Place cookie sheets in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. This will help your gingerbread men stay in shape.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place cookies in the oven and bake, rotating trays halfway through, until the edges are set, about 15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on their sheets for 2 minutes and move to a wire rack. Let them cool completely.
Beat the egg whites (or meringue powder and water) and vanilla in a stand mixer until just combined. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to high and beat until the icing is stiff and shiny, about 5-7 minutes. Divide icing among smaller bowls and add different food colorings to each one.
Putting It All Together:
Transfer icing to piping bags and pipe features onto cooled cookies. You can also draw them on with a toothpick dipped in the icing. My gingerbread man has a simple face with a brown nose and small black mouth and eyebrows. Let the icing stand for just a minute to harden. Now they’re ready to eat!
When my grandparents decided to clean house and get rid of most of their videos, we were happy to snatch this tape up. It sits safely in my sister’s room and we still pop it in every now and then. With all the baking I do, I really hope that one of these days I’ll get to go on a magical dessert-themed adventure. My Gingerbread Man looks like he’s about to run off somewhere, but I think the only place I’ll be following him to is a glass of milk.
Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!