This easy autumn craft is a great excuse to get the Northern Michigan kids outside—and then fill the house with the yummy scent of baking gingerbread. Note: These ornaments aren't eatable, both because of the use of leaves to make the impressions and the spray varnish if you choose to use it.
Gingerbread Ornament Dough:
3 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup water
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon each: cloves, ginger and cinnamon
Beat shortening and sugar together then stir molasses. Mix dry ingredients and gradually add shortening mixture, beating on low.
Directions: Make gingerbread dough using the recipe above. Refrigerate about six hours. Gather an assortment of leaves in all shapes and sizes. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thick.
Let children press leaves into the dough, vein side down—tell them not to be afraid to apply plenty of pressure. Using a pumpkin knife or bread knife, let children cut around the leaf. When cutting around the stems, leave extra dough on each side.
Carefully lift the gingerbread (with leaves still imprinted) off the hard surface and transfer to a cookie sheet. Carefully peel away the leaves. If you'll want to hang the ornament once it is baked, poke a hole using the end of a straw near the base of the leaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Place on rack to cool, then let harden for several days. If you want to keep the leaves for an extended period, seal with spray varnish. Use the leaves in autumn centerpieces or hang then in the windows or on the Christmas Tree.