25 Days of Christmas Cookies: Best-of-the-Season Gingerbread
What any Christmas-cookie-lover will first want to know about this recipe is: what’s that vinegar doing there? How can a cookie with vinegar in it be the “best”? Vinegar is for salads!
That’s generally true today, but vinegar was a common cookie ingredient in the days before baking powder was invented. Until baking powder came into existence in 1843, people needed an acid to react with the baking soda in their baked goods so they’d rise. And if you want to see what I mean by “react,” stir some baking soda into a glass of vinegar.
Home bakers didn’t have a ready store of lemon juice in the olden days, but there was always some vinegar on hand. Don’t worry: these gingerbread men taste nothing like salad dressing. They’re not overly ginger-y, either — further proof that this is an old-fashioned recipe. Ginger and other spices were expensive back in the day; even at Christmas, they weren’t to be squandered.
If you have young children, you might want to bake the bulk of your cookies before getting the kids involved. Children quickly get bored of the rolling-and-cutting steps. What they like is globbing icing onto the finished cookies. Help them roll out a few gingerbread men and plaster them with sprinkles before baking — another favorite kid activity. When they start to whine and throw dough on the floor, bring out the finished cookies for them to ice, and the peace of the season will be restored.
Make these Best-of-the-Season Gingerbread Cookies!