Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The First Gingerbread of the Season

Some people hmm and haw over the type of Christmas cookies to make each year, flipping though stacks of magazines and surfing endless recipes sites in search of the perfect holiday cookie that will surpass all baking efforts from subsequent years.

Not I.

It's gingerbread for me. Every year. The little spiced men and I have exchanged vows and we're together until death do us part. Or snack time, which ever comes first.

Now that I have children who are old enough to really get into the cookie decorating, it's all the more reason to bake up an enormous batch of gingerbread cookies.

Last Friday was a ped day for Noah, and in hindsight, Mateo and I had prepared a double batch of gingerbread cookie dough the day before. Ten cups of flour, a pound of butter - we didn't mess around.

We woke up to fresh snow on the ground, perfect for our holiday project. Spurred to action by the prospect of fresh gingerbread and inspired by the Christmas card setting outside the double patio doors, I extricated three boxes of Christmas decorations from a closet and - Diana Krall's holiday CD tootling away - flew around flinging ornaments, wreaths and bells about the place in a festive fashion.

Our friends arrived for the cookie decorating fun in a bundle of pink and purple outerwear and we got down to business immediately.

Between my friend Tavia's cookies and our gingerbread, we had over ten dozen cookies to decorate that would be later donated to a children's function at church. OK, minus those that would not make it past the little decorators.

Still, eight dozen cookie to decorate is nothing to sneeze at.

Our little bambinos seemed up for the task, so we equipped them with the appropriate tools (colored Royal icing, sprinkles, and Popsicle sticks), then sat back and let them go to town.

Incredibly, they stayed put for over an hour, and turned out some darling little cookies.

The final product! Minus the two dozen or so that were consumed. There were many casualties among the gingerbread army.

I finally had to tell Noah enough. Enough! A few minute later I saw his hand reach out and select another one.

Me: "Noah! Put that back. I said you've had enough cookies!"

Noah (cradling the gingerbread lovingly close to his cheek): "Let's just pretend it's not a cookie."

Boy, do I ever wish that worked.

Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies
This recipe is from Nick Malgeiri and you can find the original recipe HERE.

Makes about 24 large cookies, depending on the size cutter used (Aimee's note: I probably got 8 dozen small cookies, but I roll mine thin so they crisp nicely.)

  • 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.

For the decorating, 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.

Also, a touch of almond extract in the icing improves the taste quite a bit.

Happy December and happy baking!


Rachel @ Baked by Rachel said...

They're so cute! The kids did a great job and really... who could resist eating gingerbread cookies? :)

Paula said...

I agree with Noah's *let's pretend it's not a cookie* suggestion. Too cute! They did a super job on their gingerbread and by the scenes shot in the photos, it was a fun gathering. Love how focused on the task at hand the kids all are.

Evan @swEEts said...

What a wonderful cookie spread! Looks like it was a lot of fun too! I can't wait to make gingerbread this year, unfortunately I don't have any adorable children to help me decorate them

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

I also love gingerbread cookies; we have our own recipe we make every year - it has a little grated orange in it.

My girls decorate. They're 18-23, and for the past 10 yr, they come up with some interesting men and women - Brittany Spears, Donald Trump, the hooker on the corner, headless guitar players! Not for the young or faint hearted!!!

Jennifurla said...

wow, that is alot of cookies...and butter! ha

I cant wait till my girl is old enough! I love gingerbread man.

Cheryl Arkison said...

I'm with Noah, I'm totally pretending for the entire month.

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Wow look at all those delicious cookies! Believe it or not I have never made gingerbread cookies...I need to get on that!

Deborah said...

I don't think I've ever actually made gingerbread cookies. I need to change that!

Jan @ Family Bites said...

Noah is very, very wise! Super cute cookies, too.

jane said...

The cookies are beautiful! Where do you find meringue powder in Montreal?

Aimee said...

Hi Jane- I get my meringue powder from Ares. I believe Bulk Barn also caries it. There's one in the West Island.

Anonymous said...

Question? What if do I use if I do not have a paddle attachment? I only have the beaters? It comes out creamy every time I've tried to make these cookies. Any suggestions?


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