I learned to cook from the Better Homes cookbook pictured above, left. The copyright page is missing, but I received it as a wedding gift and so it is a 1974 edition or thereabouts. By 1989 I considered the old cookbook too worn to keep using, and bought an updated edition. But it turns out that I am so fond of my old, first and best cookbook, that I have never used the newer copy much at all.
Farmer John decided to make gingerbread men this year, and without consulting with me, he pulled out our "new" Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (which you'll note is nearly 30 years old), and found "Gingerbread Cutouts" on page 114. We adapted the recipe for our allergic grandchildren and came up with the egg-free version below. Oh and just for the record--John does not decorate cookies, and since I know how to use an icing bag outfitted with a Wilton tip, I did frosting duty. It was a quick job, but they do look festive.
Our oldest grandson, Daniel, said, "I like these cookies!" A new Christmas tradition is born!
Egg Free Gingerbread Cutouts
1/2 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup applesauce (instead of egg)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Grammy's buttercream frosting (below)
Beat shortening with an electric mixer for about a minute. Add applesauce and beat another minute at medium/high. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Add about half the dry ingredients, the molasses, and vinegar. Mix until thoroughly combined, add the remainder of dry ingredients, mix until combined. Refrigerate dough 3 hours or overnight. Divide dough in half, roll about 1/8 inch thick, cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on greased (or parchment covered) cookie sheets at 375º, for about 6 minutes. Cool thoroughly, decorate or frost as desired.
Grammy's Buttercream Frosting
Note: Grammy does not measure. All proportions are approximate.
1 pound or so powdered sugar (use C&H; some store brands are gritty)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
Juice from half a lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup softened butter or Earth Balance margarine
Enough warm water to desired consistency, about 3 tablespoons
Beat well with electric mixer, use immediately so that it will set up as it cools.
A little family history: the copper coffee pot pictured above was found half-buried in an old barn when my grandmother and mother (Grandma Opal and Grandma Anna Ruth) were strolling around the lot of a farm estate sale. They dug it up and took it to the owner, who said, "It's yours." Grandma Ruth cleaned it and had a tarnish-proof finish put on it, which may well have spoiled any value as an antique, but has kept it shiny and coppery all these years. I love it.