Gingerbread and gingerbread men are popular holiday cookie ideas. Made from soft, delicately spiced dough, gingerbread men have both a distinctive flavour and an entertaining aspect for children. The gingerbread man has even found its way into popular culture in children's stories, where a fast-moving man made from gingerbread taunts and outruns his many pursuers. But gingerbread men can be more than a mere human-shaped cookie cutout. With time and practice, you can begin producing gingerbread men with fine detail and distinction from one another, making plates full of fun for whole families of cookie eaters.
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The traditional gingerbread man shape--that of a human man with legs slightly spread and arms outstretched--is widely recognisable and common enough that cookie cutters have been sold in this shape for decades, but any shape is possible in the shaping of your gingerbread men. Gingerbread women, children and other forms can be found in commercially available cookie cutters and can easily be formed without a cookie cutter, using a knife or simply moulding the dough with your hands. With a little imagination, you can create gingerbread men in hats, coats, dresses and capes. Your gingerbread men can be accompanied by gingerbread dogs or cats as well. Entire gingerbread families or communities can be created by imbuing each gingerbread figure with individual characteristics.
Edible decorations such as coloured sugar, candies, frosting and gumdrops can lend features and detail to any gingerbread man. Frosting can be applied in thin lines to mark the trim and lines of the gingerbread man's clothing. Gumdrops and other round candies may be buttons on clothing, eyes or a nose. Coloured sugar, such as the red and green sugar used on Christmas cookies, can be spread over parts of the gingerbread man's surface where clothing would be. Using these techniques of colouring and marking the surface of the gingerbread, detailed and eye catching clothing and accessories can be added to any gingerbread man's appearance.
While gingerbread is already dark, the application of enough food colouring can tint a gingerbread man's colour and help to distinguish him from others. Red- or green-tinted gingerbread men make a popular Christmas variation, for example, and other colours can be used to create gingerbread aliens, gingerbread monsters or gingerbread uniformed soldiers. Other cookie doughs which bake under similar conditions can be mixed with gingerbread to create multicoloured or swirled patterns in the gingerbread men. A different colour of dough for the face and hands of the gingerbread man can be combined with other techniques to create even more distinctive gingerbread men wearing fancy clothes and accompanied by their gingerbread entourages.
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