Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies!

I would like to welcome the world to Christmas Bake-stravaganza 2010 where I am determined to give out cookies to everyone I see. I had my last final on Wednesday morning and then spent the rest of the day making various treats. Most notably these gingerbread cookies which gave me an opportunity to whip out my eclectic collection of cookie cutters. I'm generally accustomed to making sugar cookies with my mom and getting to decorate those but this year it is time to get real and make my own intense cookies with some pretty decorations. I was drawn to this recipe by Martha Stewart because it uses real ginger although if you go to the recipe you might see as I did that she includes a lot of crazy steps that seem a bit extravagant. Well. If you want to freeze cookies after every fifteen minutes then go for it but I do think that freezing the dough on the tray before cooking helps the dough to retain its awesome octopus shape.

 Molasses is definitely one of my favorite syrups in the world if not my absolute favorite. I can just eat it straight from a spoon and be content. I won't call it healthy exactly but I will say that it does have a lot of iron in it and potassium. So replace spinach and bananas in your diet with molasses! I won't judge.
 The dough was pretty flaky for me but not completely impossible to roll. It needs to stay in the fridge for at least an hour but then when you pull it out you have to let it get to room temperature a bit so it isn't hard as a rock.
There is a lobster, a frog, a deer head, a teapot, a tooth and a pistol in here. Can you find them all?
 Here is a better view of them. I put them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and then froze them for 5 to 10 minutes to guarantee that they would still look like frogs and teeth after they cooked.
 The Icing was a bit of a debacle for me. I have never used icing before in my life, only frosting. (icing- dries hard and matte, uses egg whites. frosting- has lots of butter and is not so goopy to start). First of all my recipe made about 3 tons of icing and I only used about a cup for all of these cookies. The entire time I was icing, icing was spewing out the top of my piping bag. It was a very different experience from the tranquil frosting of sugar cookies. The results were good though. The cookies taste amazing and the icing looks great.

I got the recipe from Martha Stewart and Good Housekeeping. I left out the all spice because I didn't have any. If you have allspice on hand, feel free to throw in 1 1/4 tsp with the rest of the spices. I also left out some of the more obsessive steps that I mentioned earlier.

3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting 
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger 
1/4 tsp cloves 
1 cups butter, softened 
3/4 cup sugar 
3/4 cups dark brown sugar 
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 large egg 
1/4 cups molasses

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt, and spices. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture slowly, beating well after each addition until just combined.

2. Divide the dough in half and flatten into discs then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to a day.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Allow discs to sit at room temperature for about fifteen minutes before attempting to roll them out. I divided the discs in half again to make rolling more manageable, this is optional though. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to make shapes and then transfer the shapes to the parchment lined cookie sheet. Stick this sheet in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before putting in the oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are crisp but not darkened.

4. Repeat the rolling, cutting, freezing, baking process until all of the dough is used up.

Royal Icing (optional)
4 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp meringue powder
1/2 tsp extract (I used almond)
1/2-3/4 cup warm water

Mix together the powdered sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of a mixer. Add the extract and 1/2 cup of water and then mix on medium or high speed for 5-7 minutes until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add more water if necessary. Use immediately.

This recipe made way too much for me and I had to throw the majority of it out. I was depressed. I would advise having many more things to ice or cutting this recipe down quite a bit. It was tasty though. Click the link to get a version of the recipe using egg whites. I didn't have pasteurized eggs on hand so I used meringue powder instead. It's easy to find at Wal-Mart and Michael's

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