The last time my brother and his family were in Dunedin for Christmas was two years ago. That Christmas I gave my nephew and niece a couple of old G3 iMacs (surplus to requirements at work) for their presents, and of course they wanted to spend all their time playing on the computers here instead of socialising with the rest of their family at their grandparents' house. So did their cousins, so I ended up playing host to five children aged from eight to twelve. I'd made gingerbread men to put on the Christmas tree, and they were a big hit - every time a child walked past the tree they'd pick a gingerbread man to eat.
It turns out that the gingerbread men are turning into a bit of a tradition; one of the cousins, who lives in Singapore, has been greatly looking forward to gingerbread men at "Auntie Bronwyn's house". I seem to have been adopted by the cousins, which is rather lovely because kids make Christmas Christmassy and so far I've not been able to have a Christmas with my grandkids.
Seeing as I hadn't yet quite got around to making any gingerbread men I thought I may as well invite all of the children out for a gingerbread making and pizza eating evening on Monday night. The boys made a bee-line for the computer as soon as they arrived, while the girls and I mixed up a big batch of gingerbread man mix and put it in the fridge to rest. Then we started on the pizzas, with the girls having fun stretching out the dough while I put the toppings on and baked them:
We had feta and spinach …
… chicken and brie with cherry jam underneath (photographed before cooking) …
… and meatlovers, which disappeared so fast I didn't get a photo. The boys appeared like magic as soon as the pizzas were out of the oven, naturally.
It's amazing how well boys and girls conform to their stereotypes. These kids have all been brought up in a very gender-neutral fashion, yet they're all very typical boys and girls.
After the pizzas had been eaten we got onto the gingerbread men. The boys having decided that their input would be confined to the consumption thereof, I set up three rolling and stamping stations:
Not all the gingerbread got turned into men; there were rather a lot of tiny geometric cookies made as well.
And then as soon as the smell of baking gingerbread started permeating the house, who should turn up but the boys, demanding dough …
… which they proceeded to turn into "turds" amidst much boyish guffawing, with the girls demanding "a bit of maturity around here please".
Here are the finished gingerbread cookies, first Beda's:
The kids stayed the night; the two boys in one double bed and all three girls piled into another. There was much giggling and whispering into the early hours and they were very very tired the next morning, but I do hope they're not too old to want to do this again the next time they're all in Dunedin for Christmas.
I have to apologise to the inventor of this recipe, I got it from somewhere on the internet years ago, and for the life of me I can't remember where. It's a great recipe though, and makes a good lot of gingerbread men.
1 cup treacle
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp vinegar
5 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
Cream the butter and sugar, beat in the egg, treacle and vinegar.
Add the mixed together dry ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate for at least an hour. (This is when you can make pizza)
Roll out the dough and cut into men or other cookie shapes. A drinking straw is good for cutting out holes through which you can thread ribbon to hang them on the tree.
Bake at 190°C for 5-6 minutes.
Decorate if you want to.