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Gingerbread Skeletons

Halloween is a fantastic holiday. It is low pressure and all of the individual elements are fun: dressing up, carving pumpkins, eating treats. For anyone who doesn’t celebrate it, kids dress up in costumes and people give them candy. I practically lived for the holiday when I was little; I didn’t get much candy at home. Of course, as I got older I learned to appreciate things in life other than free candy. And they are… well, you know what they are. They’re very important.
I can’t “Trick or Treat” anymore. The only person who still thinks I could pass for a primary school student is my great aunt, and, between us, she may not be entirely clear on what year it is (of course I love her anyway). I still have a lot of fun decorating, picking out a costume and, of course, making Halloween goodies.

The distinct chill in the air makes this the perfect time of year for my first batch of gingerbread. I couldn’t resist making the Gingerbread Skeleton cookies. I knew that I wanted to make these when I first saw them on Epicurious.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any animal cookie cutters aside from one in the shape of a unicorn. And I think we can all agree that nothing is scarier than a skeletal unicorn. Except maybe a zombie unicorn, but you’re on your own for that one.

Gingerbread dough is simple and spicy. I added a bit of cinnamon and extra ginger to mine. This dough rolled out very easily with a bit of flour and rerolled without seeming to develop much, if any, toughness. I went for a baking time in the middle of the frame recommended by the recipe and got soft, chewy cookies. The flavor was very good, neither too spicy nor too bland. There isn’t much sugar in the recipe, so I actually prefered the iced cookies to the un-iced, enjoying that extra hint of sweetness.

My icing was a simple, stiff mixture of confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and milk. I used a small, plain tipped piping bag. This icing couldn’t be any easier, but if you buy a tube of white decorator icing at the market, I won’t tell.

Gingerbread Skeletons
(adapted slightly from Epicurious.com)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tube white decorating icing with small tip

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses, water and vanilla. Mixture may look a bit curdled, which is ok. With your mixer on low speed, or by hand, beat in flour until a uniform dough forms. Divide dough into two or three pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters of your choice (animals are nice!) to cut dough. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes, depending on size of cookie cutter (Mine needed 9 minutes. I got about 40 cookies.). Cookies should be just brown at the edges.
Cool completely before decorating with white icing.

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  • Alice
    October 27, 2005

    Okay…now you’re torturing me…I feel the need to make these, too! Plus all the other stuff on the epicurious site. Your skeletons are adorable…and so are the other cookies you decorated.

  • Nic
    October 27, 2005

    Thanks, Alice. I just realised that everything I posted this week has been a cookie recipe. I’ll ahve to do something a little different tomorrow.

  • dksbook
    October 27, 2005

    These are perfect for Dia de los Muertos, which we celebrate Nov 2 here in San Antonio. It never occured to me to turn gingerbread people into skeletons. Thanks so much for the idea!

  • Rainey
    October 27, 2005

    You are just full of whimsey this week! Charming and fun!

    Be sure to mark this entry for DMBLGiT. It’s well photographed and there’s artistry as well as creativity in those adorable cookies.

  • cookie jill
    October 27, 2005

    These are too cute!

    I liked the Betty Crocker brownies, too…it’s so sad however that these fabulous treats are seemingly too cute to even fathom eating!

    (Glad you noticed the brownies though…I thought you would concentrate on the candy corn on the plate! – teasing….)

  • tokyoastrogirl
    October 27, 2005

    Beautiful and creative as usual!! These would be perfect “Day of the Dead” cookies as well. Your site is a daily read of mine and has inspired me to start my own blog soon. Thanks!

  • Mika
    October 27, 2005

    Eerily cute! I have been craving for gingerbread anything lately and you are tempting me to get into the kitchen and make these.

  • Nic
    October 27, 2005

    Dksbook and tokyoastrogirl – I had the same thoughts about the Day of the Dead as I was photographing them. They’re perfect for that holiday!

    Rainey – Thanks. I think it’ll be a great entry. The shot turned out better than I expected it to.

    Jill – They didn’t escape my notice!

    Mika – Thanks! I bet that yours would be gorgeous, too.

  • rokh
    October 27, 2005

    this are really cool! i have been an avid reader of yours and are enjoying your yummy blogs!

  • Chris Lautischer
    October 27, 2005

    hahaha.. how cute.. Gingerbread Unicorn Skeletons….

    They’d be good with Watkins cinnamon for sure! I got hooked on baking when I started selling Watkins products. I love the stuff especially the vanilla. If you want to take a look, check out http://www.watkinsonline.com/home and use associate id# 364407 if you want to order anything.

    Keep posting more receipes!

  • Dawn
    October 27, 2005

    These are TOO cute. I just love them! I always want to do cookies like these but worry they won’t come out half as good as yours. 🙂

  • mari
    October 27, 2005

    Stop! These are too cute! (You’re going to put me out of business) I like how the designs are simple yet original. Full of personality. Yay!

  • Nic
    October 27, 2005

    Mari – If you ever need a hand…!

    Rokh – I’m glad that you’re enjoying it!

    Chris – Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.

    Socalfoodie – Don’t worry about something like that! With cookies, it’s all about the taste. And if they look really strange, you can always say you were going for a Dali-esque look!

  • Cathy
    October 27, 2005

    Nic – these are wonderful! You really did a great job decorating. I’m with Rainey – this is definitely a contender for DMBLGIT!

  • Anonymous
    October 27, 2005

    I love gingerbread.I will definately have to try these.
    Emily ~Biscuits and blues

  • Joe
    October 27, 2005

    Love the cookies! I’m with you – I have been making quite a few cookies lately too but they are such fun!

  • chronicler
    October 27, 2005

    Too cute Nic! I love the unicorn! Cute little skeletons too!

  • Lumpia Lounge
    October 28, 2005

    Too wonderful! I may salvage my Halloween spirit yet–

  • Niki
    October 28, 2005

    What a steady icing hand!!

  • Rosa's Yummy Yums
    October 28, 2005

    They look so cute and professionally done!

  • Nic
    October 28, 2005

    Aww, thanks guys. The icing I used (confectioners sugar and milk) was suprisingly easy to work with. I think a softer icing would have created some piping problems.

  • Dawn
    October 28, 2005

    Nic, help! I got inspired and went home to try this recipe out, but had the same problem I always have…the dough warms up too quickly (even after being chilled for 3 hours) and sticks to my working surface. It is impossible to get the cut cookies up off the workspace…any ideas? I got so frustrated last night that I made a log out of the dough and froze it. I told my husband I’d do slice cookies with the dough and ice those, but I’d love to figure out how to get around this baking ‘handicap’!

  • Nic
    October 28, 2005

    Socalfoodie – This dough does warm up fairly quickly. This is what I do: chill the dough in several, smaller discs or logs. That way, I only work with about 1/4 of the dough at a time. Once they’re on the cookie sheet, I’ll take out the next disc, since it doesn’t matter if they warm up once they’re on the sheet.
    Slice and bake sounds like a good option to me, too. A round shape would be particularly appropriate for frosting into christmas ornament cookies.

  • Dawna
    October 28, 2005

    Fantastic! Now I know what to do with the cat and bat cookie-cutters lurking in the drawer…

  • Moira
    October 28, 2005

    Oh my gosh, Nic- these are SO cute! I never would have thought of these, either!

  • Fanny
    October 28, 2005

    Hi Nic, your unicorn skeleton looks so cute. I wish i had a unicorn cookie cutter.

  • McAuliflower
    October 28, 2005

    I so wish this was glow-in-the-dark frosting!

    Did I miss the warning that this was the week of cute food?

    Its all so irresistable!

  • Tea
    November 4, 2005

    omg! Your cookie decorating skills are AWESOME! The designs are so professional looking and the cookies are adorable! Very artistic! ^_^

  • Amy
    November 6, 2005

    Great minds, indeed! But yours is obviously the more creative 🙂

  • Sunshine
    October 19, 2007

    Adorable — the ghost as a bag of bones is beyond clever.

  • Coffee & Vanilla
    October 24, 2007

    I love those. Very nicely decorated!

  • Sophia
    October 26, 2007

    I just made these and OMG they are sooo cute!

  • Jenifer
    October 19, 2008

    I love your ideas!

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