Yes to Yummy

Paleo Gingerbread Men

December 14, 2013 1 Comment Print this page

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Aren’t these guys adorable?! I wish I could date a gingerbread cookie…because then, the guy in question would always smell like cinnamon and molasses, and if he got too annoying, I could decapitate him. Sigh…foodie problems.

One day last month, I was procrastinating on my homework stumbling around the internet, and something hit me: was there a really good-looking, good-tasting paleo gingerbread men recipe out there? I found a couple, and while the recipes themselves seemed intriguing, I didn’t think that the cookies looked very attractive.  (I am a teenage girl, after all: if you look like a toad, I’m not going out with you. Same thing with food.) I then had my mission for the weekend, and set out to Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a proper cookie cutter.

Are these gingerbread men exactly like the sugary, buttery original? No, they’re not. Remember what I said about paleo foods: a lion can never be a tiger, even if he shaves off his mane and paints black stripes on himself. But if you’re looking to satisfy your gingerbread craving without jumping off of the real food wagon, these guys are a great option. I highly recommend taking the time to make royal icing to decorate the cookies: when it comes to food (as is the case with many things), appearances are everything! Sure, you can use raisins or chocolate chips instead, but the contrast of the white against the golden brown is a really nice touch.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

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In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip 1/2 cup of palm shortening with 1/4 cup of coconut sugar OR maple crystals on high until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Palm shortening loves to stick to the sides of the bowl, so make sure you routinely scrape down the sides so it’ll actually increase in volume.

To the bowl, add in two large eggs at room temperature, 2 tablespoons of full-fat coconut milk, and 1/3 cup of unsulfured molasses. Turn the speed down to medium and continue mixing until homogeneous, about 3 minutes more.

In a separate bowl, stir together 3 cups of blanched almond flour, 2 heaping tablespoons of coconut flour, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of allspice, 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and clove, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Make sure you break up any clumps with your hands!

With the mixer still on medium, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, pouring in 1/2 cup of dry ingredients at a time. Stop the mixer when the dough is homogeneous, about 2 minutes later. The dough should be sticky to the touch but be able to hold together into a solid ball; it shouldn’t stick like glue to your hands. If it feels too wet, add in some arrowroot powder; if it feels too dry, add in more coconut milk.

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Divide the dough into two balls and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge to firm up for at least 2 hours, but the longer it’s in there, the better!

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take out one of your balls of dough and generously dust a rolling pin and a flat work space with arrowroot powder. Pour some arrowroot powder into a small shallow bowl, too: this will be to ensure that your cookie cutter doesn’t stick to the dough and leaves a clean cut.

Unwrap the dough and roll it out until it’s about 1/2-inch thick. DO NOT flip the dough over. It will fall apart and you will have to start all over again. Just keep rolling, because that’s how you roll.

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Dip a man cookie cutter in the arrowroot powder bowl and place it firmly on one of the corners of the dough. Gently rotate it back and forth to loosen, then pull it away from the rest of the dough. Slide a small knife directly under the cut-out to lift it off the counter and CAREFULLY place it on one of the prepared baking sheets. If your first gingerbread man loses an arm or breaks his neck, no need to fear: just set him aside and add him to your pile of dough scraps.

Repeat until no space on the dough remains. Squish your dough scraps back into a ball, re-dip the rolling pin in arrowroot powder, and roll out the dough again. Cut out more men, then do it all over again! If your dough isn’t holding together, put it back in the fridge for fifteen minutes to cool off a bit.

Take out your other ball of dough and follow the same procedure as you did with the previous ball. You should wind up with 24 cookies in total, a perfect two dozen! I love when life works out like that.

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Bake in the oven until golden brown around the edges but NOT super firm, about 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the sheet every few minutes so all of the cookies get even coverage. Bake them for less time than you think they’ll need: I made the mistake of over-baking them with my first batch, and they got a little too crunchy.

Let the cookies cool for at least a half an hour before you frost them with royal icing. This recipe is super simple!

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In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat one large egg white on high until stiff but not rock-solid peaks form, about 3 to 4 minutes, then pour in 2/3 cup of confectioner’s sugar and continue whipping until light and glossy, about 3 minutes longer.

I know what you’re thinking: 2/3 CUPS OF SUGAR?! I know it’s a lot, but remember, less than a teaspoon of royal frosting is going on each cookie. It’s really not that much. Most confectioner’s sugar is made with cornstarch, so I went to Whole Foods and found an organic version made with tapioca flour instead. Yes, it’s not the healthiest choice, but in my opinion, it’s worth it for these cookies. Baking is based on chemistry, and sometimes, chemistry needs sugar to reach the desired result.

Scoop the icing into a pastry bag or a large plastic bag with a thin tip attached. Applying gentle pressure, add eyes, a nose, a mouth, buttons, and arm-and-leg squiggles to your cookies, then let them dry for at least half an hour before eating. (The icing will harden–that’s a good thing!)

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Happy holidays, everyone.

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What is your favorite holiday dessert? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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