Date-sweetened Gingerbread Men for a Christmas Tree Hunt

 We headed into the woods this weekend to hunt for our Christmas tree and a log for our yuletide fire.   Living close to nature as we do, after all the National Forest is within walking distance of our home, we relish the turning of the seasons and, perhaps, feel their urgency more than most people.  With the darkest day of the year approaching and what promises to be another six months of blanketing snows, we took the time to welcome the season with a Christmas tree hunt and a picnic on snowshoes.

When my husband and I first began dating eleven years ago, we had little money and a lot of time.  (I imagine not much has changed since then except that, since welcoming our boy into our lives, we’ve even less time.)  But with little money and a lot of time, we took our dates outside – into the wilds on snowshoes.  It was lovely those first few years – the two of us tramping through the pillows of snow from which naked aspens shot up defiantly.

We’d pack a picnic – usually crackers, a hunk of cheese and a thermos of hot chocolate, warm cider or a bottle of cheap wine.  And we’d eat, and kiss, under a cloudless bluebird sky nestled among the aspens and conifers who could, in their secrecy, hide my blushing cheeks.  Those, dearest readers, were the greatest indulgences of our early love.  That is, until we eloped to Amsterdam.

Of course, time goes by, and before you know it you get lost within the machinations of your life.  Babies are born.   Business must be done.  Family must be visited and, before you know what you lost, you’re exhausted.

So this weekend, Christmas tree permit in hand, we packed up the car, the kid, his friend and a picnic in an effort to reclaim some of the wonder we lost to the doldrums of life.  And ever the chronicling blogger I am, I posted to Nourished Kitchen’s Facebook page that we were off.

Snowshoeing, if you do it right, can take a lot out of you.  Depending on the depth of the snow, the pitch of the hill and the speed at which you travel, it can be physically demanding, but wonderously fun nonetheless.  So, just as we did when we first started dating, I always pack a picnic – something light to eat that can help break up the day, satisfy the belly and appease the little ones.

First, I made my favorite gingerbread men (and for you who adhere to the GAPS diet, you’ll be happy to know it is a gingerbread man recipe even you can enjoy). I’m particularly partial to this gingerbread man recipe because it is satiating, and only slightly sweet. It’s a simple combination of blanched almond flour, date sugar, eggs and organic spices which I typically buy in bulk here.  Almond flour and eggs provide protein and good quality fats while date sugar isn’t much of a sugar at all and is, rather, simply dates that have been thoroughly dried and ground into a powder.

And, along with our date-sweetened gingerbread men, I packed fresh apples, a hunk of beautiful artisan-crafted raw milk cheddar cheese and a thermos filled with warm goats milk, spiced by a sprinkling of nutmeg and sweetened by a bit of blackstrap molasses.

With that, we ventured into the woods, where we met friends and neighbors who all sought that perfect Christmas tree.  We tramped through the snow, discussed the abominable snowman and when my husband disappeared for ten minutes the children were convinced he’d been eaten, wanted to leave him for dead and head to the car with a fervent urgency only a 6-year old can muster.  They settled down, though.  My husband rejoined us, we found the perfect tree (a 13-foot spruce!) and while he chopped down the tree and packed the sled we all settled in for a little snack before heading home.

And I hope this recipe, humble as it is, brings you as much joy as it did our family.

date-sweetened gingerbread men

By Jenny Published: December 12, 2011

  • Yield: 12 to 16 gingerbread men
  • Prep: 05 mins
  • Cook: 12 to 15 minutes (baking per batch) mins
  • Ready In: 17 mins

This recipe calls for date sugar and almond flour. Date sugar is a finicky sugar, highly absorbent, and you cannot substitute another sweetener for it in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups almond flour (plus extra for flouring your working surface)
  • 3 cups date sugar (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE)
  • 5 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 tsp unrefined sea salt
  • 3 tbsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tbsp powdered cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • dried currants (to decorate the cookies)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Beat almond flour, date sugar, eggs, sea salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together until they form a solid lump of dough.
  3. Flour your working surface and rolling pin. Spread the gingerbread men dough onto your work surface and roll until about 1/4-inch thick. Cut out with a gingerbread man cookie cutter. Decorate with currants and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet or a baking stone and bake until fragrant and slightly browned at the edges – twelve to fifteen minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Once cool, transfer to an airtight container for storage as the gingerbread men will become brittle if left out too long.