Gingerbread teddy bears

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This week kicks off Christmas cookie week. If you’re lucky, you’ll be taking off some time from work in the near future and have time to relax, have fun and make some goodies. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of all of these things, but I’m particularly excited about the goodies.

There’s just something exciting and happy and warm about making Christmas cookies. I really love cookies all of the time, and there aren’t any specific cookies that I only reserve for the holidays, but I’m going to kick off with the one you’re most likely to only make for a very special occasion: Gingerbread teddy bears.

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When I was a kid and all through high school, my grandma always made a basket of cookies for my cousins and me. Each family would haul home a golden wicker basket brimming with cookies one joyous Sunday in December, and they’d slowly disappear until only crumbs remained a few days after Christmas. Each night, I’d have a cookie or two, strategically deciding which cookies I liked best (and thus attempting to stretch those ones for as many days as possible). Of course I’d share three or four with Santa on Christmas Eve, but I maybe gave him my least favorite ones.

My grandma would make a wide variety of cookies, at least four or five different types; the ones I remember most often devouring were nutmeg cut-outs painted like clowns or ornaments, peanut butter blossoms, and these adorable and irresistible gingerbread teddy bears.

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When planning recipes to share here, I knew that I wanted to have this Christmas cookie week, and I knew that I wanted to share one from my grandma’s stash. I hadn’t decided which cookie to choose until my friend Amanda and I had our third annual cookie exchange, but the minute I started thinking about what cookie to make for our friends, my mind automatically zoomed back to the memory of these cutie pies.

I have to forewarn you: These cookies take some effort. I thought it would take an or hour so to put all of the teddies together and bake them, but I grossly overestimated my abilities. It took a little over two hours to roll all of the bears’ body parts. I thought about stopping halfway through the dough and forming cookie blobs, but their cuteness got the best of me, and I couldn’t resist creating an enormous teddy bear army.

All in all, these cookies are definitely worth the extra effort. Everyone at the cookie exchange loved them, and I left the party with mixed feelings of happiness that they adored them as much as me and sadness that there weren’t any left for me to bring home and play with.

On another note, the gingerbread flavor of the cookies is mild. These cookies are targeted at children, so they may not have the pungent spiced flavor you’re used to. The next time I bake them (which likely won’t be for a year or two) I’m going to experiment with making them a little stronger. I really don’t want this to stop you from making the teddies; I just want you to know what to expect.

And I promise, this is the most complicated cookie recipe I’m sharing this week. I knew to give you plenty of time to bake the one that requires the most preparation.

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Gingerbread teddy bears
from my grandma
makes 30 cookies
five-stars

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
⅔ cup brown sugar, packed (light or dark)
⅔ cup dark corn syrup, light corn syrup or molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Decorating icing (recipe follows)

 

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, cook butter, sugar and corn syrup over medium heat unil melted and sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Pour into a large mixing bowl and let cool for five minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda in a medium bowl.

3. Add egg and vanilla to the slightly cooled butter mixture and mix well. With a hand or stand mixer, stir in flour until thoroughly combined. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and chill for at least two hours or overnight.

4. To make each teddy bear, roll one 1-inch ball, one ¾-inch ball, six ½-inch balls and five ¼ inch balls. On a parchment lined cookie sheet, press the 1-inch ball to ½ inch thickness. Stick the ¾ inch ball at the head and press to ½ inch thickness as well. Attach the ¾ inch balls for arms, legs and eats, and place one ¼ inch ball on the head for a nose and the rest on the arms and legs for paws. Place two miniature chocolate chips for eyes and one for a belly button.

5. Repeat, making 8 teddy bears per cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes, switching the trays and rotating them after 8 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet, and then draw on bows with the following icing recipe in a plastic bag with a small part of the corner cut off.

Decorating icing:

½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons milk
a few drops of food coloring

1. Combine sugar and milk; stir until it is piping consistency. Stir in a few drops of food coloring.

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