Monday, December 20, 2010

The gingerbread men mystery

Every Christmas season, Jen and I get together in the kitchen for our annual baking of gingerbread men. That’s exactly what we did last night, but this year, our bonding moment didn’t turn out so well.

All I can say is, I am so glad I did not end up taking this year’s gingerbread men to her school, as we planned to do, because this year’s batch just tasted awful.

But the thing I don’t get is, what had happened? Where did we go wrong?

See, we normally use a boxed mix to make our gingerbread men. This year, however, I came across a recipe and thought, why don’t we make the gingerbread men from scratch this year? I got excited about this prospect, because I’ve never made them from scratch and I always want to learn how to make something or other from scratch. And when I told Jennifer about this idea, she go excited about it, too. Still, hubby ended up buying the box mix all the same. I promptly deposited it into the cupboard, determined to make gingerbread men from scratch that would rival any box mix.

So we got the necessary ingredients, I got out the rolling pin, and we set to work. The recipe says to leave the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but we ended up leaving it in there much longer. Something like 2 hours or so. (Maybe that’s where we went wrong?)

Because Jennifer is an aspiring chef and because she’s so eager to learn this cooking and baking stuff, I let her do the bulk of the work in kneading and rolling out the dough. She also cut out almost all of the cookies. She learned about using flour on the surface, rubbing flour onto the rolling pin and using flour on your hands so the dough won’t stick to them. She had a hard time standing the heat of the oven when she had to put the cookie sheet in, and I reminded her to ONLY touch the pan and NOT the oven or the racks if she is not wearing a mitt when putting the pans inside. After the cookies were done, we let them cool and she decorated them herself. You can see some of her work on here.

One of the cookies broke during handling. I laughed it off and told her that we get to eat the mistakes. Wow, what a mistake it turned out to be! And not just as something that broke or had a decoration goof on it. I broke off a piece of the cookie and tried it. It didn’t taste very good. In fact, it tasted horrible. I gave hubby a piece to try and he agreed it didn’t taste good, either. Well, at least I knew now it wasn’t just me and some kind of mutant taste buds preventing me from enjoying a cookie! Even Jennifer tried it (the chef MUST do a taste test, after all) and she didn’t like it, either. Still, she kept decorating all of them. While I enjoyed her decorations, I kept trying to think of what to do with these yucky cookies. Was it too late to use them for decoration? How does that work, exactly? I wouldn’t donate them; they don’t taste good, so why give them away to people who wouldn’t even be able to enjoy them? Should I trash them? They looked too cute to toss into the garbage.

For the time being, they are stored in the refrigerator. And as I try to figure out what to do with them, I’m also trying to figure out what exactly went wrong. Why don’t they taste good? We used safe food handling. The surface they were rolled out on was clean. I suppose the rolling pin was clean – though not entirely sure there. There hadn’t been anything accidentally added to the dough, and we had followed the instructions. So what had gone wrong?

Maybe it was just a bad day to make things from scratch. If you looked at the picture in the link, you could see the corn muffins that I also made from scratch last night. They didn’t taste good, either. Actually, they were bland. Flavorless.

Maybe it is just the recipe itself. Maybe I should just keep looking and trying until we find one that is perfect.

And, meanwhile, stick to the box mixes.


Anonymous said...

it was just the recipe. Try some other ones. As for me, I have never tried homemade gingerbread, we always get pillsbury in the tube, and then roll that out. Gingerbread is one of those tricky recipes that is difficult to turn out well I think.

Maybe let those cookies get hard and hang them on the tree? Take pictures of them! Even if they taste terrible, they are still good models right? :-)

Millie said...

Hmm, maybe there was an ingredient that had gone bad? Like maybe something had expired and you didn't notice the date? Anyway keep trying. I have learned from experience that it's always a risk making things from scratch. I prefer the food network site and reading recipes from trusted chefs that I enjoy on the show itself. Also, I always always read other people's reviews on recipes posted. Allison and I made a gingerbread house 2 years ago, it was loads fun. Maybe Jen would enjoy doing that with you? You can even get creative and buy extra candies to decorate it with.

Here are pics of our gingerbread house from 2008:


Those cookies Jen decorated are too cute! :) I think the photo of them is good enough for memory, hope she won't mind them being tossed out.

Dawn Colclasure said...

Nancy: Thanks for that tip! I usually use the boxed recipe, but after you suggested the Pillsbury dough, I got my hands on one and we tried it. Not bad! They tasted better after we refrigerated them.

Millie: I doubt it was an expired ingredient. Almost all the stuff was new. I remember that gingerbread house! So awesome. I got one of those kits but we haven't made the gingerbread house yet. I have just not been up to it. But today, thankfully, I am starting to feel better. I'll post a pic after we do that. I don't think she'll be upset if I throw the bad cookies out. She got too excited over the new batch that tasted better. :)