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1989 2nd Place: Great-Grandma's Gingerbread Cookies

Author/Submitted by: Ann Smith of Plainfield, Chicago Tribune second annual Food Guide Holiday Cookie Contest December 14, 1989
Servings: 36
Categories: Cookies / Desserts

1/2  cup  Vegetable shortening
1  cup  Sugar
3    Eggs
1/2  cup  Cold water
2  teaspoons  Baking soda
1  cup  Sorghum or molasses
5  cups  All-purpose flour, up to 6 cups
1  teaspoon  Ground cinnamon
1/2  teaspoon  Ground cloves
1  teaspoon  Ginger
1/2  teaspoon  Salt

1. Cream shortening and sugar in mixing bowl, beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix water and baking soda in small bowl until dissolved. Add baking soda mixture and sorghum to butter mixture. Sift 5 1/2 cups of the flour, the spices and salt together. Blend into dough. Divide dough into 4 balls. Wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten and refrigerate overnight.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll 1 portion of dough out at a time on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes. Bake on a greased cookie sheet until puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake.

3. When cool, decorate with buttercream frosting and/or candies as desired. Sorghum gives these cookies a special flavor, but molasses can be used as a substitute.

Ann Smith of Plainfield won second place, and described how her gingerbread men left Bohemia in 1872 and immigrated to the United States. Smith's great-grandmother, "Babicka" Novak, lived in a small Czech-American town in South Dakota where Smith's mother grew up in the 1920s. At Christmas time, her great-grandma would give her neighbors Old World gingerbread men, reindeer and rocking horses. "One year when Great-grandma delivered the cookies, she brought along her teenaged grandson, who was visiting from a small ethnic Czech community in Nebraska," Smith wrote. "Introductions made that day over the watchful eyes of the gingerbread men eventually lead to wedding bells for my parents a decade later. Great-grandma Novak probably had planned this all along!"

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