Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gingerbread face-off

old-fashioned (left) vs. vegan (right): which teddy bear tastes best?

I enjoyed Laura's blog entry on old-fashioned gingerbread men, although I have often made gingerbread vegans according to a recipe by Jennifer.

What's the difference, I wondered? The vegan version has no eggs, and the spices vary somewhat, but would anyone notice one way or the other?

I had a great plan for taking a tray of each to church and having folks vote on their favorite. To distinguish between them, I might put a little red bow tie on one batch and a little green bow tie on the other.

But as happens to many plans during the holiday season, this one unfortunately never came to pass. Still, the idea grew on me, until today I baked both Laura's old-fashioned version (stars) and Jennifer's vegan version (hearts) to see them side by side.

Jennifer tells you to add more water as needed, and although I added half a cup more, the dough still was very dry when I rolled it out. Lots of things seem dry in Montana, so I blame the altitude and winter weather.

The old-fashioned dough was softer and even a warmer color, although it too was drier than I expected (the altitude . . . the weather . . . ??).

I learned that you need to roll out both versions very, very thin . . . 1/8 of inch. I made some cookies that were 1/4 inch, and although they were tasty and cakey (some people prefer that type), the thinner ones looked better overall and were spicier.

Each recipe has a unique flavor due to its own spice combination, of course, so if you are adventurous (I'm not), you can alter them to your own taste.

There is no clear winner in this bake-off. Or rather, I should say, both versions are clear winners. If you don't have eggs on hand, or can't eat them, use the vegan version; no one but you will know.

You can also see from the photos here that cookies do not always turn out picture-perfect. Mine had cracks (from the dry dough), and I don't care. I once read in one of Martha Stewart's cookbooks that even she believes something homemade has every right to look homemade. Also remember, for cookies and cakes: frosting covers a lot of mistakes!

So please don't let imperfection stop you from baking and then sharing with friends, family, or neighbors.

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