WHAT TO DO WHEN A POPULAR RECIPE DOESN’T WORK OUT
Emergency Halloween Gingerbread Men Cookie Decoration
I haven’t had much success in the past with gingerbread cookie dough, and wanted to try out a new roller I got, with Halloween prints embossed on it. So I turned to Sally’s Baking Addiction website for a recipe to try. But things don’t always work out, right? And so Plan B goes into action! Here’s what started as a review of that recipe and how I rescued the failed recipe, to still be able to produce some decorated Halloween Gingerbread cookies.
Why Choose Sally’s Baking Addiction Gingerbread Cookie Recipe?
I have tried some of Sally’s recipes before and found them to be good and with great instructions, so she was a logical choice for trying out another Gingerbread man cookie recipe. There was also a video of the process, which always scores some points with me. (See photo of her Gingerbread Men Cookies from her website). And the simple Royal icing decoration looked easy too, right?
On to the review…
Initial Thoughts On The Recipe
The recipe seemed straight forward enough, but was for a big batch and I didn’t want to make as many. 24 cookies, but they were 4″ (10cm) gingerbread men shape cookies. It also uses molasses which I recently had been gifted from a friend in the states, (thanks Ellen). So I wasn’t keen on using up too much of it on a single recipe I hadn’t tried before. So I decided to use about half the amount of dough.
The Recipe Process
The recipe begins as normal by softening the butter and creaming with the sugar, adding the molasses and egg, and finally adding in the flour and spices. (Note when you add the molasses and even before adding the egg, the batter is quite split in appearance. It did say in the recipe though that this would happen). So points for that. See Photo 1.
Once the batter comes together, you just turn out onto some cling film/plastic wrap and form into a ball and then disc before wrapping fully and chilling for at least 3 hours. Since I didn’t have the time to do all this in one day, I decided to chill in the fridge on a plate, overnight. See Photo 2 below.
After Chilling The Dough Over-night – Problem #1
Next day, I came to rolling out the dough. I floured some paper and tried to roll out between 2 sheets of baking/parchment paper. Despite the dough being in the fridge overnight, the dough stuck really bad and when I tried to remove from the paper it was really difficult to do so. See Photo 3.
“Deep Breaths & Keep Calm!”Me!
Emergency Procedure 3.0 In Place
So I had no option but to add more flour to the dough, as well as really well flour the new sheet of paper, and rolling pin. In the end I added quite a lot of flour to get to the right consistency .
Next I floured my new rolling pin and guess what? That didn’t work either. It stuck in the groves. See Photo 4. To make it easier to remove from the rolling pin, I placed in the freezer to clean later. (Now that did work!)
Keep Calm & Keep On Baking!
So on I continued to instead use Halloween themed cookie cutters. There’s no way I was going to waste those ingredients, not to mention the time I had spent already. See Photo 5 below.
I also wasn’t going to have time to decorate with Royal Icing (which I don’t have much experience in). So I had to come up with some creative but simple ways to finish these cookies, while avoiding waste. So I began by adding some details to the cut out cookie dough to see how well it was maintained once baking.
I just used a wooden cocktail stick to add some details to the bats, pumpkins and gingerbread men. Super simple! See Photo 5.
To help maintain their shape and details, I also chilled the cookie dough on the trays, for 30 minutes, (something that the recipe did not instruct, despite there being baking soda/bicarbonate of soda in it. Chilling should always be done, as it not only relaxes the dough that you worked, resulting in a less tough bake, but it also helps cookies keep their shape better). This is an important emergency rescue procedure if your dough is too soft to handle.
Baking The Gingerbread Cookies
The cookies are then baked at 350f/177c – no mention of Gas or fan oven temperature. For most they would set their oven to 180c, which corresponds to 160c for Fan Ovens and Gas Mark 4. The cookies were to be baked for 9 -10 minutes but less if your cookies were smaller than 4″ (10cm) in size. Mine baked at 10 minutes for the gingerbread men (which were smaller than 4″/10cm) and bigger bats, and 8 minutes for the smaller tray with the pumpkins. And thankfully they held their shape and the details that I had added. See Photo 6.
The Gingerbread Cookie Taste Test
Now I tried one of the cookies, and I really didn’t like the molasses taste, and the spices were not strong enough for this to be a ginger cookie – Problem #3!
But, so as not to waste the cookies, I decided to try an alternative way to decorate them and at least use this experience as a way to show some alternative decorating ideas for your Halloween cookies (or even Christmas ones). This was a popular recipe from the comments on the recipe site, but if I was having problems, what’s that chances others did too? I have reviewed so many recipes over the last 4 years or so and developed my own, I know a fail when I see one 🙂 And it’s often these fails that put people off baking. For many cooking is easier and much more forgiving and has less disasters. Baking is more a science and with many ingredients at play, tiny things can make big changes. So the result is many people are put off and don’t want to bake again, and often think it’s something that they did wrong. But believe me, that is not always the case. Yes if you change things from the original recipe, chances are there could be a different result and possibly not in a good way. But nothing was changed here.
So here’s some ways I came up with, at the very last minute to decorate these cookies!
Cookie Review Becomes Cookie Decorating Ideas
I used some edible glitter and lustre dust I had, to simply decorate or give a finishing touch to these cookies. Applying in layers it builds up, but to get a really stand out colour, like on the ghost gingerbread men, I added edible glue and layered more white lustre dust on top (see Photo 7). You could also try painting using food colouring, dissolved in some alcohol or Everclear.
Keep Calm & Decorate!
I have to say though, I enjoyed colouring the pumpkins ? I think they turned out best. (See Photo 8). It did help with all the tension of the problems this recipe and cookie dough was causing me! Some I added gold glitter to the top of the orange colouring, for a little sparkle!
An alternative to colouring them, is to use as is. Like the gingerbread man that I put into a cupcake with some strawberry sauce added. Jam or jelly would work too, making it look like blood ? (See Photo 9 below).
I hope this has given you some ideas of how to decorate cookies for Halloween without any prior decorating knowledge, (and be able to adjust your plans and not get too worked up about it).
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My Thoughts On This Recipe – My Rating
This would not be a review, without my review of the recipe used haha. But you have a good idea my thoughts on that already, right? Right! But let me just analyse it like I do others and give a final over-all rating and why.
Well on the printed recipe part, there are just VERY basic instructions and no photos. However, before that part, the recipe is gone over in detail with photos. Not all of UK conversions were provided. Example being, oven temperature and sizing was not, but there were gram measurements. The cookies also baked off in the time stated but mine were smaller. However, as mentioned the dough was incredibly hard and sticky to work with. And I did not skip the minimum 3 hours chilling, but actually was over-night and more like nearly 24 hours. I had to add loads loads more flour to get it workable. Also they did not taste nice and definitely did not enough spices and ginger in them.
So taking everything into consideration, I rate the recipe a 5/10. So if you want to try the recipe, please take into account my observations before you try. This half batch made 34 cookies (gingerbread men, pumpkins, ghosts & bats of regular sized cookie cutters). So you might want to consider that also before making them. But I want you to also take from this, that anyone can have baking mistakes or disasters and not to always think it’s your fault. Keep calm and bake on, or decorate on, as the case me be 🙂
Here’s a link to the recipe – go to Sally’s Baking Addiction Gingerbread Men Recipe.
If you want to try some of my own Halloween themed recipe ideas – go to my Autumn/Fall recipes.
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