Saturday, December 13, 2008

All Gingerbread, All the Time

I absolutely love gingerbread. If I had to pick a favorite holiday cookie, gingerbread would win without question. It probably stems from my childhood and good memories of baking and decorating cookies to my heart's content. Every step is special, from the measuring of the spices for the dough, to the rolling and cutting of playful Christmas shapes, and perhaps the most fun of all, the detailed icing work.

This year I opted to make and decorate gingerbread trees. My heart just hasn't been into elaborately decorating men ever since that fateful Christmas several years ago when my brother-in-law ate the heads off of every single one of my styling GQ gingerbread men as they were drying. It was quite the massacre, no one survived and a small part of me died that day.
Of course I made some little guys for Noah to decorate and for ornaments for a wreath, which you can see later in the post.

This year I decided to forgo making an elaborate gingerbread house like I have in Christmases past. In light of a family wedding on December 20th, and the busyness that inevitably surrounds that event combined with the usual Christmas rush (Rehearsal! House guests! Gift shopping! and Me-oh-my-what-will-I-wear?), I'm cutting back on my holiday baking so I don't burn out before the big day. Still, Christmas without gingerbread just isn't an option, so I set aside some time to make sure we had a healthy stash.
Noah joined me on this task--which turned it into an adventure-- and at the end of the day I was thrilled with our assortment of gingerbread cookies. Stars! Mittens! Trees! Hmm, isn't it funny how things take longer even though you have an adorable 'helper'?

Already a pro from his snowflake sugar cookies, Noah had no trouble dressing up these little gingerbread men while I decorated the trees and mittens. I don't have a photo, but his cookies turned out so cute, I think I'm going to have to shellac a few to keep forever. Maybe I'll make a necklace or something.
Oh no! Not more crafts!
Speaking of getting crafty...

...I've been at it again. For the little effort it took, I was pretty happy with how this simple holiday wreath came out. I bought the greenery at Reno Depot for like $8, I think, and dressed it up with a few small gingerbread men. Honestly, these little fellows make my whole living room smell like gingerbread. It's heaven.
Before I forget, thanks for all your 'get-well' comments! We are all feeling much better and I am waking up with much less of a man-voice now.

And now for the recipe!

This is a new one for me, but I absolutely loved it. I like my gingerbread with a snap to them, but not jaw-breakingly rock-hard. These were perfect. I used Martha's recipe for royal icing, which calls for meringue powder. I recommend using this over egg whites if you are decorating with/for children.

Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies

This recipe is from Nick Malgeiri who has this to say about it:
"Of course you don't have to cut these cookies into any particular shape, but if you want to make gingerbread people this is the recipe to use. And these cookies are ideal for decorating... A bonus: this dough is so tender that you can roll and reroll the scraps without having to worry that the last batch of cookies you roll will be tough. This recipe makes a lot of dough, but it's easy to halve if you need less.
Check out the original recipe and other great recipes on his super comprehensive website.

Makes about 24 large cookies, depending on the size cutter used (Aimee's note: I probably got 8 or 9 dozen small cookies)

5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup molasses

2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans lined with parchment or foil

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices, salt and baking soda. Stir well to mix.

2. Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Scrape down bowl and beater.

3. Lower speed and beat in about half the flour mixture. Beat in all the molasses then scrape bowl and beater. Add the remaining flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time, and beat after each addition until it has all been absorbed.

4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the dough a final mixing with a large rubber spatula. Scrape half the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press it to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Wrap the dough securely and repeat with the remaining dough. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or for up to 3 days.

5. When you are ready to bake the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

6. Unwrap one of the pieces of dough and cut it in half. Rewrap one of the halves and return it to the refrigerator.

7. On a floured surface, roll the dough until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Use a floured cutter to cut the cookies. As they are cut, place the cut cookies on the prepared pans with about 1 inch between them on all sides. Repeat with remaining dough. Save, press together, and reroll scraps (they don't need to be chilled before rerolling).

8. Bake the cookies until they become dull and dry looking and feel slightly firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 12 to 15 minutes. If you overbake the cookies, they will be very dry. Slide papers from pans onto racks to cool.

9. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.


Anonymous said...

Gosh, your helper is adorable, and so are those cookies. Glad you are all on the mend -- that vicious head cold has been going around.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Your Gingerbread are so cute. I really like the colors you picked.

Shayne said...

we have been sick here too and I am getting bummed because the Christmas tree is not up and we have not made one batch of cookies and I have been so sick I did not even make fruitcake this year. On the up side since we have not yet made our christmas cookies that means I can try these great looking ones. Thanks Aimee!

gaga said...

Wow, what beautiful holiday cookies. You did a wonderful job with the decorations. I love the pic of your like helper.

CookiePie said...

Beautiful cookies, and the wreath is lovely too!!

Anonymous said...

I love the trees.. I wish I was crafty like you. This cristmas has been pretty humbuggy.. sigh

Culinary Wannabe said...

Umm, so I'm totally jealous that Noah is better at making cookies than me! :) And please, please don't be that lady who wears the gingerbread looking ornaments on a necklace with big beads!! When my mom became a teacher, my first rule was that there were to be no "teacher" necklaces like those. Anything but ornament jewelry! :)

Terrie said...

So, was the head-biter BIL "R"? Just guessing...Tell him if he does it again, you'll bite HIS head off! Cute cookies!

Ruskin said...

Gorgeous looking cookies!

kickpleat said...

i haven't made rollout gingerbread in ages! i definitely will try to make some this year!

Lorie said...

Where did you buy the meringue powder? I'm in NDG and I wonder if the grocery store or the gourmet kitchen store are likely to have any.

Anonymous said...

Those are really beautiful - I don't know if I would be able to eat them (and I loooove gingerbread!)

jazzphiles said...

Your pictures are great, A, and the dough looks so easy to work with. I tried two recipes this year, and wasn't happy with either, though we managed to cover up a fair bit with icing. Beautiful wreath! You're getting pretty crafty...

Cookie baker Lynn said...

What a great little baker boy Noah is. Your cookies turned out adorably and I'm loving the idea of cookie ornaments. Well done!

RecipeGirl said...

How darling are these? I love that you're including your son in the kitchen- I do the same with my son. It's so precious seeing them learn.

Maria said...

Cute trees!

LyB said...

Aimée, you are my hero! I can't for the life of me, make cut-out cookies look any good. Yours look like they should adorn the cover of a magazine. I love them! :)

Aimée said...

Hi Lydia- he's just as sweet as cookies, I agree! Thanks for stopping by and the well wishes.

Hi Helene- Thank you! I'm not good with mixing colors but the green came out tolerable, I suppose.

Hi Shayne- Oh dear, I hope you are feeling better soon! Thankfully most people can survive with out fruitcake.

Hi Gaga- Thanks! That's sweet of you to say so.

Hi cookie pie- I love getting greenery into the home at Christmas time.

Aimée said...

Hi minizoo- How so? it doesn't appear that way.

Hi culinarywannabe- OK, thanks for the tip. Noted! :)

Hi Grammy- Uh, nope, his name started with a N and ended with a K. Brat!

Hi Lorna- Many thanks!

Hi Kickpleat- you'll be glad you did!

Hi Lorie- I got mine at Ares. Other gourmet kitchen store should have it.

Hi Kim- That's the beauty of eating with our eyes first!

Hi Jazz- Yours tasted great- I managed to get a toe from Noah's!

Hi Lynn- Isn't homemade the best?

Hi Recipe girl- I'll bet he's a great baker, too!

Hi Maria- Thanks

Hi Lyb- So nice of you to say so! I do have a few years of practice under my belt. :)

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Beautiful wreath, gingerbread trees and men...

Do you still get on with your B-I-L? Does he still get invited to yours at Christmas? or any other time of year? Every single head? Oh dear....

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