I've written in the past about strong food-associated memories and none are as strong for me as those that surround family holidays – especially Christmas. The mere smell of clementines remind me of Christmas time along with the smell of cloves and cinnamon. Since Kareem and I usually head home for the holidays I've tried to capture some of the festivity in our apartment by making gingerbread cookies. These cookies fill the house with the aromas of spices and the plateful of decorated cookies serve as a reminder of the upcoming holidays. Since it's also the season of giving I love to have a treat to bring friends. The recipe that I use is from Martha Stewart and the only alteration I've made is to roll out the dough a little bit thinner than she recommends and I cook them for less time. The result is a more crisp cookie but if you prefer softer gingerbread feel free to disregard my notes. I love the spiciness of these cookies – the black pepper offers a hidden zing that is unexpected and definitely unorthodox but the fact that these cookies aren't overly sweet is what makes them ideal for decorating in sugary sweet royal icing.
Makes about 24 six-inch gingerbread people
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup unsulfured molasses
1) In a large bowl sift: flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
2) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture; combine on low speed. Divide dough in thirds, and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour.
3) Heat oven to 350°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough 1/8-inch thick.* Cut into gingerbread people shapes. Transfer to prepared baking sheets.
4. Cut out desired decorations and place on cookies. Bake until crisp, but not darkened for about 20 minutes. Let cookies cool on wire racks.
*Note: I rolled the dough out a little bit thinner than Martha recommends and baked them for about 8-10 minutes – until crisp.
Once the cookies have cooled they can be decorated using royal icing. I've used the icing that comes packaged in a tubes from the grocery store but find that they don't harden and cause the cookies to stick to one another. Royal icing is super easy to make and any crafts store or cooking store will sell frosting coloring.
(This recipe makes a lot of icing)
- 4 Cups confectioners sugar
- 3 Tablespoons meringue powder (or dried egg whites as I found them labeled in my super market – in the baking section)
- 6 Tablespoons of warm water (might need a little more than this to achieve smooth frosting that is easy to pipe from a piping bag – it should fall from a spoon in ribbons)
1) Mix all of the above ingredients together and if desired divide into bowls and add colorings of your choice.
2) Using a piping bag or plastic bag fitted with a pastry tip you can begin decorating the cookies.