Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Gingies!

Yes, I'm still posting all of the things I made for the holidays.  I still have several more before I'm done, so just sit tight.  I promise, these are all great recipes, and next year, they will make one heck of a "things to bake for the holidays" post. 

I'm not entirely sure why, as I'm not a huge gingerbread person, but this year I really wanted to make gingerbread things.  I already shared the Espresso Gingerbread cake with you, and now it's time for something a little more traditional: gingerbread cookies.  I usually stay away from cut-out cookies, because decorating them is an exercise in frustration for me, as I am rubbish as decorating.  But this year, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it.  And I have to say, I think they came out pretty cute!  Even that little guy in the middle there, who lost his arm during the cooling process.  The two things that made a difference for me were that I kept the designs simple (they all pretty much have the same design), and I used a little squeeze bottle for the icing.  I bought a whole bunch of them in a tub at Michael's a while back, and they are pretty great for this.  So much easier to control the icing, as you don't have to mess with a piping bag or anything messy like that.  And, they have caps, so if you want to stop decorating for a while, you can just put the cap on the bottle and walk away!


These are soft chewy gingerbread men.  I like them that way.  They stayed soft for a really long time, which made me really happy.  I made a recipe and a half -- I was going to make a double batch, but I didn't have enough molasses.  I think it made me about 4 or 5 dozen little men.  I gave all of them (except a few rejects and broken bits) away in cookie plates for work.  I got several compliments, and one person even said they were the best gingerbread men she'd ever had! 

Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
Source: America's Test Kitchen "Family Baking Book"
Makes about 20 cookies (depending on the size of your cutter)

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light molasses*
2 tablespoons milk

*fp note: i had full-flavor molasses and golden brown sugar in the house, so that's what i used. didn't notice anything off about the flavor in mine.
  1. Process the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt together in a food processor until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the butter and process until the mixture is very fine and sandy, about 15 seconds. With the machine running, add the molasses and milk in a steady stream through the feed tube and continue to process until the dough comes together, about 10 seconds.
  2. Divide the dough into 2 even pieces and roll each out to a 1/4-inch thickness between 2 pieces of parchment paper (fp note: here's my trick when i have to roll something to a certain thickness: i take a toothpick and make a mark on it at the desired thickness. then i can just poke the toothpick into the dough and see where the dough is in relation to the mark.).  Leaving the dough sandwiched between the parchment, stack them on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes (you can also leave them in the fridge overnight if you want to).
  3. Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Working with one piece of dough at a time, transfer it to a clean counter and gently remove the top sheet of parchment. Stamp out cookies using cookie cutters. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets with a thin metal spatula, spaced about 3/4 inch apart.
  5. Bake the cookies until they are light golden brown and show a slight resistance to touch, 8 to 11 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. (Do not overbake)
  6. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or decorating.
Royal Icing
Source: "One Sweet Cookie" by Tracey Zabar
Makes so much more than you will ever need.  Seriously, make like 1/3 of this recipe.

1 pound confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 large egg whites

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the confectioners' sugar, cream of tartar, and egg whites together until light and fluffy. (fp note: start really slowly, or you will end up with a cloud of sugar. another trick is to drape a kitchen towel over the machine until the sugar is incorporated enough to not float away)

Pipe the icing onto the cookies in your preferred design, or spread with an offset spatula.

fp note: if you make 1/3 of this recipe, i would use a hand mixer or even a whisk for this. on egg white is so little that the whisk attachment won't be able to reach it in the bottom of the bowl.

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