I love it when the light comes into the kitchen in the afternoon. It's a dark room in the morning and for most of the day, but in the winter for just a short while on sunny-ish afternoons, it filters in at a low angle through obstacles — bare branches, eyelet curtains, onion baskets. Some people are so affected by light, and some people don't seem to notice it too much. Andy and I are in the former category. We are constantly fussing with the lights, tweaking dimmer switches, curtains, and lightbulbs throughout the day and the season until it feels right. I think that part of the reason I miss snow so much is that the daylight, when reflected off snow and into the house, is so much brighter and whiter than the daylight reflected off . . . mud. Our house faces north, and we need every bit of brightness we can get.
What any of it has to do with gingerbread I don't know, except that I find myself just wanting to be in the kitchen all the time lately. Who doesn't, during the holidays. It's warm in there, and the light is nice, and there is cinnamon, and hot drinks, and happy work to be done (unless chocolate is involved, and then there is howling). I just couldn't bear to ruin anymore chocolate in anymore bad brownies, so I decided to go with homemade gingerbread for my baked gifts. Next to homemade egg nog (so much different than the store-bought stuff) and Mexican hot chocolate, gingerbread is right up there with my favorite holiday treats.
Homemade gingerbread requires, you know, ginger, which is fun to chop up into little glittery nuggets. Nevertheless, as we were standing in the aisle at Winco on Sunday afternoon about to buy four bottles of molasses, a ginormous jug of vegetable oil (eeewww), and a big huge bag of flour, I saw a stack of about a thousand Betty Crocker gingerbread mixes for $1.48 each — just add eggs and water. I stood for long moments, flat-footed in front of the display, thinking, thinking. I pointed at them and looked at Andy hopefully — yes? NO said he, and dragged me away. He insisted that "we'd" have more fun if we did it from scratch. Strangely, he disappeared into the basement the minute we got home. . . . But he did come back up when it was time to clean the kitchen and take care of the whole batter-splattered thing, so that was fun. He was right!
Perhaps homemade gingerbread is no-fail, because mine amazingly came out just fine. It was a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. I used this recipe I found by just doing a search; it seemed to have gotten good reviews. I'd have to agree with them — mine came out dense and moist and really nice. Phewy. Well, some of them sunk a bit in the middle, but I think it's because I was baking four at a time. And it was only some. And it's crunch time here, baby, so nothing can stop me now.
I used star-shaped paper baking molds from the Decorette Shop here in Portland. These come in lots of shapes and worked beautifully for me. I found some on-line here. They're a little pricey but I think they're so beautiful. The design on top is just powdered sugar sifted through a square doily (and I have no idea where I got the doilies; I've had them forever — sorry!).
Mmmmmm. Spicy stars. Can you smell them?