Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I began making these gingerbread cookies 4 years ago. Before that, I went back to my parent's house and baked an impressive assortment of Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters. After my daughter was born, I decided that we needed a Christmas tradition of our own. I'd never made gingerbread before in my life, but they look so pretty and festive that I decided that they were the perfect pick for our cookie tradition. That first Christmas my daughter sat in her bouncy seat at 3 months old and watched me roll out the cookies. Each year she's been a little more involved in the process. Last year her special job was the sprinkles. This year, she's still "queen of the sprinkles", but she actually helped to make the dough. I make, decorate, and individually wrap about 9 dozen of these cookies to take to each family Christmas celebration and to give to friends and neighbors. That means these cookies don't happen in just one day. I make the dough on day 1, roll out and bake on day 2, and decorate and wrap on day 3. This year, because our Christmas parties are more spread out, most of the cookies are still waiting in the freezer to be decorated.
You begin by sifting the dry ingedients together. That's flour, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and baking powder.
Next, melt and cool 1 cup of butter.
Now add a cup of molasses.
And an egg, water, and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients.
Mix until combined and formed into a soft dough.
Divide the dough into 3 parts. I spoon mine right onto plastic wrap.
Then I smoosh (technical term here) the dough to about 1 1/2" thick. Make sure that it's sealed tightly in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
When the dough (and you) are ready, roll it out on a floured surface.
Cut out the cookies.
Transfer them to a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. They are done when they appear dry and are soft to touch.
Once they've cooled, they are ready to decorate. I begin by piping on two blue eyes and a smile.
Next, I add cinnamon candy buttons for the men and sashes for the ladies.
Then I pipe on cuffs and collars and skirt ruffles and sprinkle with green sugar. This is where I made a royal mistake with my first two dozen cookies this year. I always use Buttercream Icing on my gingerbread cookies. Well, I had quite a bit of white royal icing left over from the gingerbread barn and I hated to waste it, so I just used it to pipe on the cuffs and collars and ruffles. Big mistake. Huge. That stuff dries to a rock hard consistency. When I finished decorating, I wrapped the cookies and plated them up. Unfortunately, two days went by before I got a chance to deliver them to my neighbors. So the cookies sat there getting stale in addition to having cement for icing. I delivered the cookies last night and when I returned home, I decided to have one for myself. I bit, or should I say tried to bite into one of these pretty cookies. It was hard as a rock. Uh-oh. I am so embarrassed. If you happen to be one of the people that recieved my cookies and you're reading this now : I am so sorry! If I had only tried the cookies first....
The moral of the story is royal icing is great for gingerbread houses (and barns) but stick to buttercream for the cookie decoration AND always sample the final product before you give it away to people...especially if you want them to like you.
Once the frosting is dry, I wrap each cookie in plastic wrap and tie with a ribbon. I just love how pretty they look.
6 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. ginger
1 t. cloves
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
1 c. butter, melted and cooled
1 c. molasses
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. water
1 t. vanilla
1. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
2. Combine the other ingredients and mix until smooth. Gradually stir in dry ingredients.
3. Divide dough into 3 pieces. Pat down to 1 1/2" thickness. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 3 hours.
4. Roll out to 1/4" thickness on a floured surface. Place 1" apart on a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees. They will look dry and be soft to touch when done.