I have made these fellas to hang from the Christmas tree for ages. They are darling, edible and make cute gifts. They are also a great project for the amateur artist. You can craft your gingerbread men (or women!) to look however you want. This year, I gave a few of mine beards. I'm keeping up with the trends.
3 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup softened butter
2 cups powdered sugar, possibly more
1 Tablespoon milk, possibly more
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla
Measure the flour and whisk in the baking soda and spices. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attached, cream the butter. Add the sugar and whip until incorporated. Add the molasses and the egg and whip until light. Scrape down the bowl and whip for another 10 seconds or so.
Remove the whisk attachment and switch to the dough hook. Dump in the flour and spice mixture and knead on low until the wet and dry ingredients have combined well. Refrigerate about one hour.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll out one quarter of the dough to 1/8" thickness on a well floured surface.
Using a gingerbread man cookie cutter, stamp out pieces. Use a plastic straw to punch out a hole in the head of the cookie in order to put a ribbon through. Make the hole a good size; it will close some during baking. Line the men up about 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If there is a lot of residual flour on your cookies, use a pastry brush to remove it. Too much flour will result in a lighter colored cookie. I like the rich brown color to contrast well with the white icing.
Bake 6 minutes. Cool completely on wire wracks or on another heat-proof surface.
Make the icing: Whip the butter until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla and whip until light. You may need to adjust your icing to be the right consistency. Add milk 1/4 teaspoon at a time to thin it. Add powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time to thicken it. You want your icing to be piping consistency. (I will mention here that it is also possible to use royal icing for this part. The English certainly would. Royal icing is a brighter shade of white, though this icing, once dry, is very nice, too.)
Decorate the ornaments as you see fit. Here, I used a piping bag and a number 3 tip to ice these cookies.
Here are how some of mine turned out iced.
Once the icing has dried, cut an 8-10 inch piece of red ribbon (1/16" to 1/4" works best). String through the hole and tie a knot, adjusting for the length you want. Hang from your tree or give them away as gifts.