We live only a mile from the Brookfield Zoo – the largest zoo in Chicagoland – we were even there today. So it was not surprising that my kids suggested making a Gingerbread Zoo.
In the past, we’ve made our gingerbread houses from scratch. But this year there simply wasn’t time. And so (I’m still trying to convince myself it’s OK that) our only option was to use a mix. I’ve bought mixes before – boxes of cornbread mix – for my husband’s favorite turkey taco pie recipe. But beyond that, my kids have been pretty much brainwashed that homemade baked goods taste better than mixes. But should you find yourself time-crunched this season, I have reviewed two of the most popular gingerbread cookie mixes so you can decide which is best for your purposes.
Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cookie Mix ($1.99) is mixed up with a stick of butter, an egg and water. It is an easy dough to roll out and does not crumble when using cookie cutters. Since it rolls smoothly, it’s easy to make large slabs of gingerbread needed for houses (or zoos!) Baked according to directions, it’s slightly pliable (which isn’t always the best for construction) but it can be baked longer to be stronger. The baked cookies are golden in color and quite good – cinnamon is the strongest spice but ginger flavor is evident too. (It doesn’t taste as strongly of cloves as my homemade recipe but is surprisingly good.) The biggest issue I had with this dough is it spreads quite a bit – likely a result of the stick of butter. Thus rounded gingerbread zoo entrances (or house walls) must first be trimmed into square corners to fit together snuggly.
Krusteaz Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix ($2.50) is mixed up with 2 tablespoons of flour and water. (Withou the addition of butter, the price of the different mixes is about equal.) The dough is slightly crumbly when rolled out, but it doesn’t spread as much when baked. As one inevitably rolls and cuts again and again, the dough that gets reworked bakes up with crinkly top textures. The baked cookies are dark brown in color taste is very gingery – even peppery, ginger, also surprising good.