Christmas traditions include gingerbread: Annual event brings families together for fun holiday activity

Aidan and Camden McCandless work on their gingerbread house. / Chandler Holland / Times-News correspondent

Commentary by Chandler Holland
Times-News correspondent
teens20@thetimesnews.com

   On a recent sunny Saturday morning, Christmas melodies filled the air, while children and their parents brought their own gingerbread houses to life at the Fairchild Community Center in Burlington.
Brightly colored icing decorated roofs in straight lines, loop-de-loops and random squiggles. Peppermint fences lined green gummy entryways, skittles lined roof peeks and M&Ms outlined windows.
If you haven’t done so already, you may want to take a minute to sign up at Burlington Rec & Park’s “Notify Me” portal at btownnotifyme.bbcportal.com/. That way, you won’t miss the announcement for next year’s wonderful Gingerbread Creations Workshop. This family oriented event ran from 11 a.m. to noon, following breakfast with Santa, and was full of good holiday cheer.

      This long-running event showcased the extensive renovations and new Exploration Station at the community center. The Exploration Station is a newly created childcare program in the center, for ages 3 to 5, focused on getting children into hands-on experiences in the outdoors. It’s definitely worth a visit.
All in all, Burlington’s Gingerbread Creations Workshop is the perfect event to add to your family’s list of holiday traditions for next year. If you want to extend having the delicious “aromas of the season” in your home, here’s a recipe to bake your own gingerbread cookies.

Grandmom’s Christmas Gingerbread Cookies

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup molasses
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

   In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Slowly add the molasses, mixing well. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.
In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, and spices. Add the dry mixture to the dough, about 1 cup at a time, mixing until just combined after each cup of the flour mixture is added.
Divide dough into 3 equal amounts and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
When it’s baking time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the fridge, working with one portion at a time. The dough should remain firm, but be pliable enough to roll out to ¼” thickness. While you may be able to work with a well-floured rolling pin and table, it’s easier to roll this sticky dough between two pieces of plastic wrap.
Cut your cookies and gently place them on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies have lightly browned. Transfer to a rack and cool cookies completely before handling. It’s important to watch your cookies so they don’t get too crisp while baking, particularly if you have cut them on the small side.
Cook’s notes: Gingerbread cookies can be cut into classic “boys and girls,” or any other shape you desire. They are great served plain with a glass of milk, or you can go all out and decorate them, using royal icing to glue on brightly colored candies.

Chandler Holland is a junior home-schooler and a Teens & Twenties writer. She is a lead intern at C’est si Bon! Cooking School, and co-teaches the Kitchen Capers kid’s cooking classes at Alamance Arts.

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