Gingerbread Teddy Bears

I debated for a long time on what cookie I would feature for my last of the Five Days of Cookies posts. I went back and forth between Italian Wedding Cookies (aka Russian Teacakes or Mexican Wedding Cakes), which are definitely a real favorite of mine, and peanut butter blossoms (you know the peanut butter cookie with a Hershey Kiss on top). Or how about those cookies that completely encapsulate the Hershey Kiss, those are good too. Oooh… what about Bourbon or Rum Balls for those of you who like a little extra something in your cookies. Oh, wait… wait… what about Maple Yule Log cookies? or Butter Pecan cookies? Those are fantastic. I also debated over a few simple holiday drop cookies that I have collected over the years. All good options, for sure, but ultimately I ended up on this Gingerbread Teddy Bear cookie. This recipe comes from the same book where I found the Pastel Cream Wafers recipe. When I first saw the picture of these adorable little teddy bears in the book, oh so many years ago, I knew I had to make them because they looked so cute! The very first time I made them however, I didn’t make them the way the recipe instructs by rolling small balls of dough and attaching them together in a bear shape, instead I rolled the dough to about a quarter of an inch thick and used a bear shaped cookie cutter. Yep, I cheated. I took a short cut. The cookies were still pretty cute and I have made them that way many, many times. But every now and then, its good to make them the way they were intended; to take a little time, sit down with someone who also likes to bake (or just recruit your spouse, kids, Grandmother, basically anyone who can’t say no) and spend some quality time rolling dough balls and piecing them together, perhaps while drinking mulled cider, or a cup of hot chocolate, and talking about the good old days while holiday music plays in the background! You know, have some fun while your making these and share that fun with people around you. It’s a good thing… for sure. I should say that there are a number of gingerbread cookie recipes you can find out there on that Internet thing and in fact, I have several other ginger flavored cookies that are very good, but what I like this one for, is its simple flavors and softer texture. And again… have I mentioned… they’re just so cute!

A few notes: This dough will need to refrigerate a few hours (or overnight) before rolling and shaping, so be sure to plan. When making the dough, I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment but a good hand held mixer will do the trick as well. The original recipe in the book says this will make 16 cookies, the web version says 24 cookies (you can view that here), but my batch of dough always makes 30 - 32 cookies if you follow the suggested sizes in the recipe.

Here’s how I make them…

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

  • ⅔ cup packed brown sugar

  • ⅔ cup molasses

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda

  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 96 miniature semisweet chocolate chips

For the decoration:

  • ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted

  • 2 - 3 teaspoons whole milk

  • 1 – 2 drops food coloring (color of your choosing)

Directions:

Grab a saucepan and add to it the butter, brown sugar, and molasses.

Cook over a medium heat, stirring until the butter is melted and the sugar is completely dissolved.

Pour the butter mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, and allow  it to cool for 5 minutes.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and cloves, and set aside for now.

Add the egg and vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well.

Now add the flour mixture and beat on low to medium low speed until well mixed.

Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

When the dough has thoroughly chilled it’s time to make the bears…

Preheat the oven to 350°F with the oven rack in the center position.

For each bear:

Shape the dough into one 1-inch ball, one ¾-inch ball, six ½-inch balls, and five ¼-inch balls.

Onto an ungreased (or parchment lined) baking sheet flatten the 1-inch ball to ½-inch thick to make the body.

Attach the ¾-inch ball to the body and flatten to ½-inch thick.

Attach the ½-inch balls to make arms, legs, and ears.

Put one of the ¼-inch balls on the head for a nose and the remaining ¼-inch balls should be arranged atop the ends of the arms and legs to make the paws.

Place mini chocolate chips to make eyes and a belly button.

These will spread a bit while they bake so I make 8 bears per cookie sheet.

Now place those bad boys in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until done, then carefully remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

When completely cool:

Combine powdered sugar and enough milk to make an icing that is of piping consistency. Stir in food coloring as desired, and transfer into a piping bag with a small round tip.

Pipe bow ties at the neckline of the cooled bears and allow time to set.

Come on, admit it, those are cute, right?

I hope you’ll try these gingerbread bears and I hope you will like them too, otherwise I might start questioning my own likes and dislikes and who knows where that rabbit hole will lead.

I will say that I think that one of the best things about the holidays is a big platter of various cookies. Cookies that are all different shapes, sizes, textures, colors, and flavors. For those of you who find it difficult to make decisions this will be a nightmare for you, but for me, it’s one of those really great things in life. Yep, I said it… a plate of cookies is great! Over the last five days I have tried to give you an assortment of cookies to either add to your regular holiday cookie list, or to create a new one and I hope you’ll find that your cookie plates are always full this season!