Baking Gingerbread Man Cookies

Every year, I do many activities with my first grade students based upon The Gingerbread Man story.  We read many different gingerbread man books, write about decorating a construction paper gingerbread man, and even perform a gingerbread man readers’ theater for the kindergarten class!  But never have I actually made gingerbread cookies with my students (or ever, really)!

I thought this would be the year.  My students really appreciate fun extension activities, and I thought they would do a really nice job baking and decorating cookies!

On the back of one of my Gingerbread Man books, there is a gingerbread recipe.  I decided to try that recipe, since I really did not know where to begin.

Trying to get everything that I needed together to haul to school was a task!  I thought I had everything gathered the night before, but I was still grabbing odds and ends that morning (like oven mitts…that’s could’ve been bad).

The dough was pretty simple to make!  I passed around all of the spices for the kids to smell, (cinnamon and ginger were the most popular) and then let each student add something to the bowl.

Just like many other recipes, I mixed the wet ingredients first and gradually added the dry ingredients.  The butter was not quite soft enough, and it took a lot of mixing to get it combined with the sugar and molasses.

As the kids were adding the dry ingredients, I thought at first the hand mixer was going to give up because the dough was fairly thick!  In fact, my students so elegantly told me it looked like horse poop.

After all of the ingredients were mixed, I did my best to press the dough into a lump, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and then we put it in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.  The book’s recipe suggested an hour, but we didn’t have that kind of time!

I rolled out the dough (my marble rolling pin is too heavy for my students…although they all thought it was pretty and wanted to touch it) and the kids cut out some of the cookies using an approximately 2 inch cookie cutter.  I used A LOT of flour to keep the dough from sticking to everything.  It was a strange consistency…it was both sticky and a little crumbly all at the same time.  It was not like rolling out pie dough.  But once I got the hang of it, we managed!

We ended with 30 cookies total, with a small ball of dough left over.  Fifteen cookies fit on each baking sheet.  I used silicone baking mats on the baking sheets so the cookies came off easily.  One of the other teachers at school made gingerbread cookies for her class earlier, and she had a few limbs and heads fall off while removing them from her pans.  I was hoping this wouldn’t happen for me, as I didn’t want my children to be traumatized!

After baking the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes, my students were so excited to watch them come out of the oven (and try to catch any that decided to try to run away)!  The recipe stated to bake the cookies for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.  I was using an oven I had never used before, so I am assuming the temperature was right and they just needed to bake longer.

We allowed the gingerbread cookies to cool for about 2 hours so the icing wouldn’t melt right off!  We used Betty Crocker cookie icing in squeezable packs.  I made the mistake of cutting the tip of the white icing up too high so the opening was too big to make appropriate sized eyes and buttons.

Since I didn’t know how much icing we would need to decorate, I instructed the students to make a face and buttons first so everyone had a chance, and then they could decorate their cookies however they wanted.  I was really impressed with how well they turned out!

Almost all of my students really enjoyed eating the cookies!  Since they all got to decorate 3 cookies, I allowed them to eat one and take the other two home to eat or share.

We had a few extras that one of my students delivered to the church staff where our school is located.

So, for a first attempt EVER at baking gingerbread men, it went pretty well!  The students had fun, got to show off their baking and decorating skills, and ended with a sweet treat!  The cookies were crunchy as the students were eating them.  The majority of my class was glad they did not taste like molasses because they did not find the smell very pleasant!

If you would like to make these gingerbread cookies, the recipe is pictured above.  Also, here are some links to purchase The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth in board book and soft cover form.  It is such a cute, timeless story!

I find that there aren’t too many people who make gingerbread cookies each year as part of their Christmas baking.  Do you make gingerbread men?  How do you decorate them?  I would love your input!

“Riddle riddle ran, fiddle fiddle fan, so ends the tale of the Gingerbread man.”  Jim Aylesworth

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