December 21, 2011 | 1:00pm
Sweet and spicy, crunchy or soft, gingerbread is a holiday harbinger
that ushers in the season. Some prefer to mainline their gingerbread in latte form, or snarf a giant stack of gingerbread pancakes from Daily Dose
, but we're purists. Give us our gingerbread men straight out of the oven, just like grandma used to bake.
Plus, the bitsy little bows and candy buttons, paired with gingerbread perma-smiles are the fastest way to turn your grinch frown upside down. And if the holiday stress is really getting to you, unleash the rage by biting the head off a hapless gingerbread man. Sweet, sweet vengeance.
We recommend you save the trouble of baking and decorating by leaving it to the pros. But whose gingerbread reigns supreme in the Valley? Is it the pretty-in-pink gingerbread ladies
from Karl's Quality Bakery
or the bow tie-bedecked gingerbread men
from Barb's Bakery
Run, run as fast as you can to catch these gingerbread men...
In One Corner: Karl's Quality Bakery
8847 N 7th Ave, Phoenix
The Set-Up: Karl's quaint patisserie has everything from maple bars and frosted donuts to petits fours and cookies galore. Included in their impressive list of pastries are several types of gingerbread, including chocolate-dipped, gingerbread folks of all sizes, and tons of holiday offerings to stuff any stocking. We opted for the individually wrapped pretty pink gingerbread maid with golden locks and a couple choco-dipped gingerbread cookies on the side for good measure.
The Pros: Karl's gingerbread lives up to its namesake. The ginger flavor was dominant, and plenty of aromatic winter spices like clove and cinnamon were noticeable after the first spicy bite. An ideal balance between sugar and spice and everything nice.
The Cons: Our poor little gingerbread lass was so hard we needed a side of milk (or maybe an Irish coffee) to dunk before devouring. The icing was also rock hard, crumbling upon impact instead of adding a bit of extra sweetness. Luckily, the choco-dipped gingerbread sticks were much softer, the perfect balance between texture and flavor. Too bad they're not dukin' it out in the ring.
2929 N 24th St, Phoenix
The Set-Up: Barb's has some darned fancy desserts on display, ranging from cheesecakes and cannolis to pretty iced Christmas trees and snowmen. (About as close to snow as you're likely to get here in the Valley.) Our red and green gingerbread men were fresh out of the oven looking cute as a button.
The Pros: Our gingerbread man had the perfect texture, soft and easy to nibble. The flavor was heavy on the molasses, smooth but not too sweet. Plus, look at that little gingerbread smile and bow tie. Who doesn't love a dapper gingerbread lad?
The Cons: More molasses than warm ginger spice, Barb's gingerbread men could easily have been mistaken for a straight molasses cookie rather than a spicy gingerbread man. Good thing there was a pretty little bow tie there to let us know the difference.
In Battle Gingerbread, the soft texture, cutesy decorations, and mild ginger spice of Barb's Bakery
wins the day. Although the sharp ginger bite and warm winter spice of Karl's gingerbread lass exemplified the holidays, the poor gingerbread lass was much too hard to to nibble sans milk. (Opt for Karl's much softer choco-dipped gingerbread instead, and you've got a gingerbread win-win!)
Despite the lack of a head, Barb's gingerbread man eeked out the win.