I’m hitting you fast with as many holiday posts as possible because last year I really dropped the ball and didn’t give you enough holiday cheer on this here blog, and so I told myself that this year things would be different. This year, I wouldn’t be such a Grinch. Just a couple days ago I shared this edible baked brie and bread centerpiece that you all really seemed to love and so today I thought I’d share another edible decorating hack, a simple but festive garland made of homemade gingerbread cookies. This Edible Gingerbread Men Garland is super easy to make and a great way to get your family and friends together for a fun project! Make and bake the gingerbread ahead of time and then gather everyone around for a cookie decorating party. Watch as everyone gives life and personalty to these delicious cookies and then string them together into a cute garland that you can hang up as a simple decoration around the house. Then once you are done admiring your beautiful garland, just go ahead and start taking a bite out of them.
This is the same recipe for gingerbread from a couple years back, but we’re adding the two holes in the center so that we can string the garland through the cookies! In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
**Tip: Make sure you have the freshest of spices on hand so that you really get that great gingerbread flavor in the cookies. Grind your own nutmeg because fresh tastes way better, and don’t be afraid to add a bit of black pepper! I know it might sound weird, but it’s just a hint and you won’t be able to taste it!**
Cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat until well-combined, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to evenly incorporate.
Stir in the molasses, spiced rum and lemon zest. Mix until blended through.
**Tip: I like using spiced rum in this recipe because it goes so well with the spices in the dough, but vanilla extract will do if you don’t have any rum on hand. The lemon zest adds a nice freshness to the dough to balance all the flavors out!**
Add the dry ingredients, in batches, stirring until just combined after each addition. You don’t want to add it all at once because you run the risk of having the flour go flying everywhere when you go to mix it.
Stir until the dough comes together. Keep in mind that it’ll be a somewhat soft and slightly sticky dough. Divide it in half and then wrap each half in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours to firm up the dough and make it easier to roll out and cut.
**Tip: If you don’t have 3 hours to spare, place the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes to speed things along. You can also make the dough ahead of time and just keep in the fridge until ready to use. Remember to allow the dough to come down to room temperature because rolling out.**
Working with one at a time, roll out on a well floured work surface, to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 3 or 4-inch gingerbread man cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on a prepared baking sheet, about 2 apart.
Bake until puffed up and slightly browned at the bottom and then remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely. The cookies should be completely cooled before decorating, this will ensure the icing doesn’t melt when you go to decorate the cookies.
**Note: It’s best to let the cookies air dry for about 1 hour or so before decorating because it’ll firm them up even more and make it easier for your to string them into the garland.**
Decorate the cooking as you wish! Use royal icing so that it can harden completely and then it won’t smudge when you string them together.
**Tip: You can use store bought royal icing if you want to make it easier on yourself, or you can make it yourself. I’ve provided a recipe below that uses meringue powder instead of raw egg whites, if that sort of thing worries you.**
Once you’ve decorated the cookies (you can go as simple or as fancy with sprinkles and candies as you wish) allow the icing to harden. Then using thin ribbon or twine, carefully string the gingerbread cookies together into a long garland.
**Tip: You want to make sure that the ribbon or twine is sturdy enough to hold onto the weight of all the gingerbread men cookies. String them close to one another so that they don’t go twirling around on the string.**
Another important thing to keep in mind, which is something I experienced, is that you want to punch out the two holes in the center a bit further away from each other. More so than I did. If the two hole are too close together, and the center part is too thin, that center part will break and the cookies will fall. Don’t make the same mistake that I did! Make the gap between them larger!
I recommend stringing them up right before you plan on having your party or gathering, or right before you plan on eating them. And if you don’t feel like making a garland with the cookies, well, at least you can enjoy homemade gingerbread men cookies just as they are! They’re actually quite tasty. Use the same dough to make gingerbread houses as well! It’s a great cookie base for all of your gingerbread needs!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup vegetable shortening
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- ⅔ cup molasses (unsulfured)
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 teaspoon dark rum (or vanilla extract)
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons meringue powder
- 3 to 4 tablespoons water
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and vegetable shortening. Add the brown sugar and mix until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and stir well until completely combined. Mix in the molasses, lemon zest and rum. Add the dry ingredients, in parts, and stir until the dough comes together. It should be soft and slightly sticky to the touch. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half, tightly, with plastic wrap forming them into disks. Place in the fridge and allow to chill for at least 3 hours or overnight. It can be made up to three days in advance.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Working with one dough disk at a time—keeping the second disk in the fridge—roll it out onto a lightly floured work surface. The thicker you roll out the dough, the chewier the cookies will be. And the thinner you roll it out, the crispier they will get. You can decide how to roll it, depending on your taste for gingerbread. Cut into gingerbread men shapes and place on baking sheets, lined with parchment paper, about 2 inches apart. Using the small end of a plain circle decorating tip, cut out two holes in the center of each cookie. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove the sheets from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the pan. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and allow to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Whisk together the icing ingredients until completely smooth. If you want a thicker icing, add less water. If your icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. Pour the icing into a piping bag, fitted with a small round tip, or into a food storage bag with the end cut off. Decorate the cookies as you wish. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes to set the icing.
- String the cookies together using ribbon or sturdy cooking twine and hang right before you plan on enjoying them!