Gingerbread men are a type of cookie that, to me, are the epitome of both Christmas and cookie traditions. That means I like my gingerbread pretty traditional: kind of crisp, heavy of the molasses, and full of good spices. I actually saw a recipe for gingerbread just the other day and was a little sad that they left the molasses out! That's a key ingredient for me!
I like to make these cookies kind of crisp because I like to dip them in my coffee (what don't I like to dip in coffee?). I'm also not an icing person. Since gingerbread men are traditionally decorated with Royal Icing (made with egg whites) I would suggest maybe making a glaze out of some non-dairy milk, powdered sugar, and a little vanilla to decorate. If you like your cookies a little softer, then roll them a little thicker and take them out of the oven while they're still a little soft. They'll stay that way!
Another thing I do with my gingerbread is make them with whole wheat flour. Seriously. 100%. I think that the flavor of the whole wheat is divine with the spices and molasses! I think I would also like to smear some of these with some coconut butter (so much for tradition!).
Whole-Wheat Gingerbread Cookies:
3 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2/3 c. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1/2 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. blackstrap molasses (unsulfured)
8 1/2 Tb. hot water
1 tsp. vanilla
0-2 Tb. almond milk (or "milk" of choice)
In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. Stir in the molasses, hot water, and vanilla. When mixed, stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt. Cover and chill 2-4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F and remove the dough from the fridge. Allow it to set on the table for about 10-15 minutes to warm up slightly. If the dough is crumbly, add 1 Tb. of almond milk. You want the dough to stick together, but not be sticky. You also may not need any at all. Roll it out on lightly floured surface (rolling it out on floured wax paper is also a good idea) to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters of choice. Repeat the re-rolling and cutting for the rest of the dough. Decorate with nuts, red hots, etc. if desired, before baking. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool before removing from the sheet.
Note: Be sure to stick the dough back in the refrigerator between the baking of the batches for the best results!