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Legends and cookies of Christmas 6: Gingerbread men and gingerbread cookies

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This is the sixth in a series of articles regarding some of the Legends of Christmas, each of which will be accompanied with a Christmas cookie recipe. Share these legends with your family as you make your cookies for special family times.

It is said that Queen Elizabeth I invented gingerbread men which she could use as small gifts for the dignitaries who visited her. According to legend, she made them into the image of her courtiers as well as in the shape of the dignitary to whom the gingerbread man was to be given.

Gingerbread tied with ribbon became popular at fairs and, when exchanged, became a token of love. The bard himself, William Shakespeare, said this in “Love’s Labor’s Lost” – And I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.

Gingerbread men were brought to the American colonies by the English. There are some accounts of ginger cookies being used as a means of persuasion to voters in America – instead of passing out pins with the candidate’s name on them, the ginger cookies would be given to the people so they, in turn, would elect the desired candidates that would be serving in the House of Burgesses.

Many of us became familiar with gingerbread men through the brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. This story was written and published in the 19th century.

An article about gingerbread men would not be complete without an accompanying recipe so you can make some of your own. This one is for Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread Men.

Ingredients

1/2 cup margarine

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg yolk

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.
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