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.