Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies

I love the holiday time and all the yummy treats that come with it.  I think no matter what religion you are, you can appreciate a good cookie.  When my running club announced the date for our annual holiday party and said that everyone could bring either an appetizer or a dessert, I knew I wanted to make something festive.  I had never made gingerbread men before, but I always enjoyed eating them, so I decided to whip up a batch for the party.  First stop was to NY Cake & Baking Supply, which is not too far from my office to pick up the proper cookie cutter.  I had to leave the store quickly or else I would have bought almost everything they sell!

I turned to my trusty How to Cook Everything where I found the recipe for "Aunt Big's Gingersnaps" which has an adaptation to make them into Gingerbread Men.  The recipe is very simple to follow.  As with most cookie recipes, you have to let the dough chill for a bit in the fridge, so I made the dough Friday night, then chilled it until Saturday morning.  That afternoon I decorated them and let them set before the party that night.  For the icing, I mixed 1 cup confectioner's sugar with 2 tbsp boiling water (if the icing is too thick, just add more water).  I put it into a sandwich bag, cut the tip of the corner off and piped the icing right onto the cookies.  For the most part, they came out looking well, though there were a few "special" ones.  A few I salvaged, turning a wonky face into something different - one ended up with eyebrows, and another became a vampire.

The cookies were a hit at the party, too!  It was crowded, so not a lot of people saw me bring them in.  The pile kept getting lower and lower, and when people found out I brought them, they told me that they'd already had a few of them.  If they were going back for seconds, then I don't doubt these were delicious cookies!

Gingerbread Men (as printed in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 heaping tsp baking soda
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt

- Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses until smooth.
- Mix the baking soda with 2 tbsp hot water and beat into the dough.
- Combine the flour, spices, and salt in abowl.
- Add the dry ingredients to the dough and beat well.
- Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Remove from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you are ready to roll it out.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- When the dough is sightly softened, roll it out as thinly as possible; use a gingerbread man cutter (or hand-cut if you're brave) to cut the cookies out.
- Bake on ungreased  baking sheet until golden around the edges (about 10 minutes), watching carefully to prevent burning.  ***For softer cookies, remove the dough from the oven when the center is still puffy and soft
- Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a rach to cool.
- Decorate if you wish.
- Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to several days.

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