I can’t name names here because I wouldn’t want to shame a small business, but yesterday I bought some gingerbread cookies at a local bakery and they were hard. I saw on their Instagram that gingerbread men were among the day’s lineup and I am a huge gingerbread fan. I won’t go so far as to say I wish gingerbread were available year-round (for some reason I don’t see myself snacking on nutmeg and cinnamon cookies on a beach in July?), but there are two flavored syrups at Starbucks that get me going: pumpkin spice and gingerbread! Have you ever mixed the two? Yes, I’m white and Protestant if you can’t tell from that last sentence.
Anyhow, there are two ways you can cook gingerbread, but there is only one right answer. Gingerbread cookies should be soft. They should be supple. They should bend to your teeth before the cookie skin breaks and the crumbs fall all over you. They should retain a bit of elasticity, and maybe you can even leave your fingerprints on the cookie if you hold them too hard because you’re just that excited.
What they should not be is hard.
I won’t even make a joke about hard gingerbread men (other than this one), but if your gingerbread cookies are hard, then you are doing things wrong. I’m here to tell you we all deserve the best this holiday season, and we should accept nothing less. You should only accept soft gingerbread cookies. I don’t care if your grandma made these with her heirloom recipe; she needs to crawl in a time machine and go tell her ancestors they are wrong. Hang them! Guillotine them if you have to! They’re wrong!
I told my dad this a few years ago. When I’m home for the holidays, I’m not allowed to help myself. My dad cooks for me. My mom does my laundry. It is not that I demand these things. It’s just, as their eldest son, I am royalty and I deserve nothing less. So, like I said, I only accept soft gingerbread cookies.
My dad is also aware I am health conscious. He promptly informed me that the excess softness of gingerbread comes from, uh, butter. In plainer terms, fat.
Did I still want soft gingerbread cookies?
While I wish he hadn’t informed me of this (sometimes I return from visiting my parents and just think the air is more caloric in Virginia Beach), I told him we sometimes have to accept the worst qualities of the things we love. Marilyn Monroe is famous for reminding us of this.
“But,” I added, “could we just not bake the cookies for as long and leave out some of that butter?”
Raw cookie dough is soft after all.
My dad also happens to be a health inspector. My idea was not greeted with proclamations of my creativity for thinking outside the Betty Crocker box and assuming our immune systems could handle partially cooked batter left on the counter for 72 hours. My dad followed the recipe. They were soft. I ran a few extra miles that week.
Which brings me to yesterday: When I go to a local bakery, I expect them to know how gingerbread cookies should be made. I expect my bakers to be forward thinking and not stuck in butter ration times. They asked if I wanted one for $2 or two for $3, and I am a mathematician. Don’t screw me over. Of course I’ll take two.
At home in my kitchen, I tore into the bag only to find these gingerbread men were, gasp, uncompromising to the teeth. Their skin hinted at some softness that eluded my bite. They were, oh dear Gabriel, harder than a fruitcake.
“What is this? What self-respecting bakery would sell such monsters?” I ranted. And then sat down to blog.
I polled my Instagram followers on their thoughts. Only two people claimed belief in a hard gingerbread deity. One is a troll, so I’m not sure he’s being truthful, and the other is part Irish, and maybe she comes from a lineage of butter rationing after that potato famine. But this is 2017. We need to worry about our healthcare and tax cuts and the education of our citizens, not bloody butter and whether our gingerbread cookies are soft enough to roll with the punches!
My one friend protested that hard gingerbread is meant for dipping in milk, and I won’t deny milk may help with that cancer of the cookie, but I want gingerbread that is independent of any beverage.
“Hard gingerbread is better for icing,” she reasoned.
“You can still ice soft gingerbread,” I snapped. “I’ve done it myself!”
Now you know: Don’t you dare try giving me hard gingerbread cookies. If I’m at a holiday party, I’m going to pass right over that atrocity. Of course, if you’re kind enough to personally make me cookies, I won’t spit in your face, but I may donate hard gingerbread to an animal shelter.
I recovered from the shock and loss of $3 by buying a pint of Halo Top Gingerbread House ice cream. And this, like it should be, was soft and OMG the best. Once I locate some soft gingerbread cookies, I will be making gingerbread ice cream sandwiches on soft gingerbread cookies and buying a Trenta iced coffee, light ice, light soy, four pumps gingerbread syrup.
You deserve only the best, remember! You deserve only soft gingerbread.