Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies Two Ways

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Deep down, I wanted to make some glorious Christmas cookies with beautiful royal icing decorations, that would just impress the heck out of my friends and family.  And then I tried.  And there was a disconnect the size of the Grand Canyon between what I was hoping it would look like, and what it actually did. I had initially made some for me to decorate and for my son to decorate.  My son and his cousin had a blast decorating their gingerbread men cookies (center bottom picture), and that was worth the tedium of cutting out the shapes.  I tried a simple cookie glaze from King Arthur Flour on the ones in the bottom left because I had neither meringue powder, nor a desire to use raw eggs, and I thought they came out pretty cute, but the glaze was tricky to pipe.  Then, my wonderful brother and his girlfriend bought me meringue powder in exchange for a lesson on macaron making, so I tried my hand at royal icing (bottom right).  That was where my desire to make beautiful, royal icing cut out cookies ended in a ball of flames.  The icing colors, in spite of using lots of gel food color, came out pastel, it was still too runny, it took every bowl in my kitchen I had, I didn't have good tips that were small enough, the bottles I bought to ice with were too narrow of a neck, and I just completely lack creativity and patience.

I do not have the patience, or the creativity, or the time, or the money to put in to what can only be described as a labor of love.  So what to do with the 1-1/2 recipes of gingerbread cookie dough sitting in my fridge?  I took it out, shaped it in to a log, and made gingerbread slice cookies (like the shortbread and sugar cookies).  It took 5 minutes, one pan, almost no mess.  Then I made the simple cookie glaze, and just slathered it on them haphazardly and called it good (picture top center).  Much more my speed.  So, now that I have given an explanation to my cookie cutting and icing experience, I am giving you two ways to tackle these cookies, cut out or slice.  Do whatever floats your boat :)

One last word on these cookies:  They are good!  As in the best gingerbread cookies I have ever had, good.  If you roll them or cut them a bit on the thicker side, I think they come out even better, because then they have a little chew and substance.  They are bursting with flavor, and I have yet to give them to someone to try who has not loved them.  So whatever way you choose, I hope they find a wonderful place in your Christmas traditions.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES TWO WAYS
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Gingerbread Cookies)

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (or cloves)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
Eggnog Icing 
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Simple Cookie Glaze)
  • 2-1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 to 2-1/2  tablespoons eggnog, as need for desired consistency  (use milk if you want plain vanilla icing)
  • Food coloring if desired
Directions:

1. Dough: In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt butter.
2. Transfer the butter to a medium-sized mixing bowl, then stir in the brown sugar, molasses, salt, and spices. let it cool to lukewarm, and beat in the egg.
3.In a small bow mix the baking powder, soda, and flour, and then stir these dry ingredients into the molasses mixture.
4. Divide the dough in half, and wrap well in parchment paper or saran wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
5. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get out several baking sheets and line with parchment paper (for easy cleaning)
6. For Shaped Cookies: Once the dough has chilled, take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator, and flour a clean work surface, and the dough. Roll it out as thin or thick as you like; for slightly less crisp cookies, roll it out more thickly. 
7. Use flour under and on top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the table or rolling pin. Alternatively, place the dough on parchment, and put a sheet of plastic wrap over it as you roll, pulling the plastic to eliminate wrinkles as necessary when rolling; this will keep dough from sticking without the need for additional flour. For soft dough, or dough to be rolled extra-thin, you may choose to roll right onto the ungreased back of a baking sheet.
8. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, cutting them as close to one another as possible to minimize waste.
9. Transfer the cookies to ungreased cookie sheets (or, if you've rolled right onto the parchment, remove the dough scraps between the cookies). Bake the cookies just until they're slightly brown around the edges 8 to 12 minutes, or until they feel firm. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for several minutes, or until they're set. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. 
10.  For Sliced Cookies: Once dough has chilled, take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator and roll it in to a log with your hands, about 6-8 inches long and 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Using a sharp knife, cut 1/6 to 1/4 inch thick slices and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake until they are just slightly browned and firm around the edges, 8-10 minutes.  Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer them to a baking rack to finish cooling.  Repeat with remaining dough.
11.  For Glaze: Mix the sugar, vanilla, and corn syrup in a bowl.  Mix in 1-1/2 tablespoons eggnog and stir well.  Add more 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
12.  For Royal Icing: If you want to do royal icing instead, check out this tutorial from Chocolate, Chocolate, and More here.
13. Decorate the cookies as desired.


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