- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 cup molasses
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed for rolling out the dough
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 5 tablespoons whole milk
Place the shortening and light brown sugar in large bowl of the electric mixer and cream together on high speed.
Turn off the mixer. Crack the eggs one at a time into the mixer bowl and beat well after each addition. Be sure to turn off the mixer before cracking each egg into the bowl!
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the water and baking soda. Add to the shortening and sugar mixture.
Add the molasses and mix well on medium speed.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the 6 cups of flour, the ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg.
Turn off the mixer, add the flour mixture to the shortening and sugar mixture, and mix on low speed until just blended. Don't overmix! The dough should be stiff but not overly dry; if it seems too wet, add a bit more flour to achieve a consistency that will be good for rolling out the dough.
Place 4 large pieces of plastic wrap on a countertop. Using a rubber spatula or large spoon, divide the dough among the pieces of plastic wrap, and wrap well.
Flatten each portion with your hand and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Make sure the oven rack is in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Generously sprinkle flour on a flat work surface, such as a countertop or large cutting board.
Take one batch of dough out of the refrigerator and place it on the floured surface. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of flour on top of the dough.
Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Itís best to measure with a ruler.
Cut out the dough with a boy- or girl-shaped cookie cutter and place the Gingerbread Friends about an inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
Form the remaining dough scraps into a ball and roll out again to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into more shapes and place on baking sheets.
Bake in batches until the cookies are puffed and golden--10 minutes if you like your cookies softer, or 12 minutes if you like them crunchier.
Using oven mitts or pot holders, remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them with a plastic turner to wire racks to cool.
Repeat with the remaining batches of refrigerated dough.
Make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk in a medium mixing bowl and stirring well until smooth.
Once the cookies have cooled slightly, frost them using a small pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Add any other desired decorations to the cookies while the icing is soft. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container.
If you see your Gingerbread Friends in color, simply separate your icing into different bowls, add drops of food coloring to get the shades you want, and then frost your cookies with the colored icing. By the way, you can use any shape cutter you want. Don't limit yourself!