Since my darling niece Emily asked me to post the gingerbread recipe--here it is. I usually double the recipe because we love it so much, and it's always nice to have so many that you can give some away!
PS: I do not consider these to be better than my mom and Grandma's ginger cookies, but that cookie is soft and you do not roll them out and make shapes, which the kids adore. These cookies are the kind you'd make men or houses out of.
Perfect Gingerbread Cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbs. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 3/4 cups flour
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, then molasses. Carefully add the spices, soda and flour and combine till it makes a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut cookies into desired shapes and bake until firm, about 10 minutes. (You can use parchment paper on the cookie sheets if you like, but if you don't use it, don't grease the sheets.) Cool on wire racks and dip in chocolate ganache or decorate the way you like.
1 cup of heavy cream
about 1 cup of chocolate chips, or dark chocolate broken into chunks (*NOTE: milk chocolate does not work properly for this...)
Simply heat the cream in a heavy saucepan till it is nearly boiling. Shut off the heat and add the chocolate to the cream. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir together until smooth and glossy.
Dip the cookies halfway into the chocolate (I dip whatever part of the cookie looks flawed, if any) and lay on cookie sheets covered with waxed paper. You can add colored sugar or sprinkles now if you like them. Place outside, in the fridge or the freezer to cool to solid. Then remove and stack in tins with waxed paper between layers. (You don't want them to melt together if they warm up!)
**a few notes: if the ganache isn't getting thick and glossy, add more chocolate! I don't measure the cream or the chocolate, so my estimate could be wrong. You can also put a very low heat underneath to get any lumps out.
you can add things for flavoring--espresso, vanilla, mint extract, raspberry or cherry liqeurs--I probably wouldn't use any of that for gingerbread, but for shortbread cookies or cake? delicious!
DON'T wash out the ganache pan! Just add milk to it and you have the most fabulous hot chocolate ever! And if there's a lot left over, you can dip strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, graham crackers--or use it to drizzle over a cake. This is my favorite frosting--I almost never use buttercream anymore. Enjoy!