The Expanding Gingerbread Solution

In order to facilitate maximum enjoyment of spiced holiday homunculi, the experimenter has been tasked with discovering the perfect gingerbread recipe. Finished product must retain 95% of original shape (i.e. no extraneous inflation of confectionary limbs) while still providing maximum dose of festive flavor.

Pre-Experiment Notes

Preparation, Stage 1

Minutes upon minutes of internet research has yielded two potential candidates for base recipe. Recipe A is touted as yielding a form-sustaining product, while Recipe B appears to have the more appealing blend of spices. Upon close examination, both recipes were found to contain similar quantities of all key ingredients with the exception of the spices, leading the experimenter to deduce that Recipe B must also be form-sustaining. Recipe B was selected, then put through a rigorous process in which the experimenter reengineered the dried herb and root amounts [NOTE: For a detailed description of this method, see On Spice Ratios and Rational Modifications].

The final ingredient list (per batch) is as follows:

  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Additional ½ cup flour (to provide non-stick rolling surface)

Necessary apparatuses required:

  • 1 set measuring cups
  • 1 set measuring spoons
  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • 1 spoon
  • 1 rolling pin
  • 1 spatula
  • 1 gingerbread man cookie cutting device
  • 1 pan
  • 2 cooling racks

Laboratory Condition

Laboratory appears clean and well-stocked, though it is missing a number of key ingredients and necessary apparatuses. Missing items are as follows:

  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground cloves
  • Sufficient flour
  • Molasses
  • Rolling pin
  • Gingerbread man cookie cutting device

Preparation, Stage 2

Acquisition of missing supplies requires a trip to a local shop. Taking into account size of establishment, variety of goods, and proximity to test site, the Meijer on Lake Lansing Rd was selected as the final destination. Upon arrival at the Meijer, the experimenter was unable to locate a gingerbread man cookie cutter. Establishment was exited without purchase of any goods. The experimenter then drove to the nearest Wal-Mart, which also failed to yield a gingerbread man cookie cutter. A small cooking store in the Eastwood Town Center, despite the implication that it would contain necessary items for cooking and baking, displayed a marked lack of cookie cutting devices. The Frandor World Market had one gingerbread man cookie cutter in stock, but it was judged as too small and of too poor quality to be used in the experiment. The Okemos Meijer also did not contain a proper cookie cutter or rolling pin, but did have all edible ingredients. Ingredients purchased at the Okemos Meijer. Marsh Road Target had mediocre cookie cutter, but all rolling pins were well beyond the budget of this experiment. Final stop at the Meridian Mall Bed, Bath, and Beyond finally yielded a large gingerbread man cookie cutter and reasonably priced rolling pin.

Hypothesized time required for supply acquisition: 20 min
Actual time required for supply acquisition: 2 hours, 35 min

Experiment Notes, Day 1

11: 30    Initial ingredients combined without incident.
11:35     Addition of flour yielded sticky dough unsuitable for rolling.
11:38     Additional 1 cup of flour added to the mixture. Dough remains at the same level of adhesive fluidity, contrary to the baking laws that state increased flour saturation is in direct proportion to increased viscosity. Future experiments will have to be conducted to test these remarkable results.
11:40     Additional ½ cup of flour added, to no noticeable effect. Taste test of dough proves that the addition of still higher amounts of flour will result in an exponential drop-off in flavor.
11:41     Experimenter swears colorfully at the dough, to no avail.
11:45     Another cup of flour is added to the dough, finally resulting in a less-sticky substance.
11:47     Flour is sprinkled liberally upon the rolling surface and a small ball of dough is placed upon it.
11:55     The dough adheres to the rolling surface and rolling pin, despite all flour precautions. Rolling surface now resembles a tiny shoggoth. Everything in immediate vicinity has been coated with the spiced monstrosity.
12: 16    Shoggoth-dough has been scraped from all surfaces. Rolling surface has been scrubbed and re-floured.
12: 19    Experimenter has decided to forego all rules of data recording and has started wantonly adding flour to the mixture.
12: 27    Dough is finally at proper rolling consistency. There is no way to tell exactly how much flour is currently in it.
12: 29    A small ball of the dough has been rolled into a sheet on the rolling surface. Gingerbread man cookie cutter is pressed into the dough, creating three ginger subjects.
12: 35    First batch of ginger subjects is in the oven. Dough still exhibiting a tendency to stick to the rolling surface in places. Experimenter has solved this particular issue by introducing a new device to the experiment- the metal pie server. The pie server, when applied in a violent, controlled sawing motion to the underside of the dough men, has proven 85% effective in removing stuck ginger subjects from the rolling surface.
12: 42    First batch of ginger test subjects has finished baking [NOTE: For further information regarding the baking times and temperatures of the ginger subjects, see Appendices A, 5, and Σ]. Subjects have retained their form to within experiment goals.
12: 45    Mastication of Ginger Subject #1 has proven that the liberal addition of flour by the experimenter has, in fact, compromised taste, though not to the degree expected. Still, Ginger Subject #1 does not pass taste standards.

Form held to 95%? Yes
Maximum flavor? No

Conclusion

Experiment yielded no adequate samples.

Upon review of the day’s events, the experimenter has decided to introduce a temperature element to the next set of experiments in an attempt to reduce the unwanted flour pervasion.

Experiment Notes, Day 2

11:15     Initial ingredients once again combine without incident.
11:18     After adding the initial 2 cups of flour, dough is once again sticky and unmanageable. An additional cup of flour is added to the mixture.
11:20     Still-too-adhesive dough is placed in refrigeration unit.
12:35     Dough is removed from refrigeration. While less adhesive than before, it is still unsuitable for rolling. Additional ¼ cup of flour added and dough is placed back in refrigeration unit.
13:42     Dough still slightly sticky. An additional ¼ cup of flour added. Dough is carefully rolled out. Dough remains slightly stickier than ideal. Experimenter carefully cuts gingerbread subjects and uses metal pie server to scrape them off rolling surface.
13:50     First batch of second day’s ginger subjects in the oven.
13:58     First batch of ginger subjects suffered spreading issues. Experimenter took a moment to contemplate how the ginger subjects reflected the expanding waistline of the United States. Horrified, the experimenter ceased this train of thought.
14:04     After several minutes of contemplation of the inflated ginger subjects, experimenter opened refrigeration unit and gave the dough a test poke. After finding it to still have that slight bit of adhesion to it, experimenter removed the dough from the refrigeration unit and placed it in the freezing unit.
14:20     Time in the freezing unit has done nothing. Experimenter still has to knead additional flour into the dough and carefully roll it out. The remainder of the ginger subjects are cut and baked.
14:55     Taste test of second day’s ginger subjects finds no significant difference between the second and first day groups.

Form held to 95%? No
Maximum flavor? No

Conclusion

Experiment yielded no adequate samples.

The simple addition of a temperature element did not substantially change the adhesive dough issue. Experimenter has decided to find a new base recipe for all subsequent experiments.

Mid-Experiment Research Notes

Preparation

After failure of initial recipe, experimenter spent many hundreds of seconds perusing the finest recipe collections (i.e. the internet) for a new angle on the gingerbread conundrum. Careful consideration of peer reviews, as well as judicious application of knowledge gained from previous failed experiments and further spice tampering as per original methods, has led the experimenter to settle on the following:

  • 3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature, softened)
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • Additional ½ cup flour (to provide non-stick rolling surface)

The recipe appears to acknowledge the flour issue present in the first recipe by requiring a larger initial amount of flour. While the experimenter is concerned that the increase in volume of liquid and semi-solid ingredients will negate the additional flour and lead to the same viscosity issues as before, all peer reviews of the recipe suggest otherwise. The increase in spices also suggest that taste will not be compromised with the additional flour, as proved to be the case in the first recipe.

Experiment Notes, Day 3

16:34     Initial ingredients combine without issue.
16:36     Two of the requisite 3 ¼ cups of flour are worked into the mixture. The dough remains sticky and unmanageable.
16:41     The addition of the remainder of the flour has caused the dough to solidify to a proper consistency. Experimenter weeps quietly with joy, but is careful to avoid adding tears to final dough mixture. Dough is placed in the refrigeration unit.
17:53     Dough is removed from refrigeration. It is left to sit at room temperature while the rolling surface is prepared.
18:01     First batch of dough rolls out without incident. Ginger subjects are cut and placed in oven.
18:09     First batch of the third day’s ginger subjects have finished baking. Shape has been retained to near 98%. Experimenter punches the air, à la Bender in the final scene of The Breakfast Club.
18: 45    All ginger subjects from third day have been cut and baked.
18: 48    Taste test of third day’s ginger subjects show that subjects exhibit both a small exterior crunch and pleasant interior softness, as well as a festive bite of spice.

Form held to 95%? Yes
Maximum flavor? Yes

Conclusion

After three days of rigorous testing, the third day’s batch of ginger subjects passed the tests of both form and flavor.

Make a note here: HUGE SUCCESS

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