Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Conceivably all cookie baking should be done, cookie tins assembled and gifted. That’s the goal, right? Every year, absolutely every year, I get overly ambitious when it comes to the number of different cookies I intend to bake. Inevitably I can’t fit them all in and some cookies are left to be made the following December. Problem is, by the time I’m in Christmas cookie baking mode again, I have a wealth of new recipes I want to try. There are just so many great options out there. This year is no different from the rest. I’ve planed for 5 different cookies and so far… I’ve completed 3. I did manage to get my 3 chosen holiday cookies baked and gifted, yay! And maybe… somewhere in between cooking and baking for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas dinner, I’ll manage to fit in at least one more.
I apologize for not getting this written up earlier in the week, but it’s here for you now. All last minute bakers.. this is a fun one to do with the kids on Christmas Eve. And if your a Pinterest pinner, be sure to pin for next years cookie agenda. I have been searching for the perfect gingerbread cookie for years, never before has it been quite right. This year, I’m done searching. What makes a perfect gingerbread cookie for me? It must be slightly chewy, not crisp through and through. It must retain its shape, having clean edges after baking. And last, but not least, it must have great flavor. I prefer a flavor that is more than just ginger and molasses. I tampered with a recipe I found in my Baking Illustrated cookbook and it came out perfectly. It retains its shape after baking, it’s spicy, but not overly so, and its crisp around the edges, but tender and soft at the same time.
I’m not going to go on and on with this recipe. I want to get it out there for you to try! I love to decorate these cookies with a simple royal icing. The artist in me really enjoys this part, but don’t be intimidated if you aren’t particularly artistic, just have fun with it. The royal icing I used comes from Serious Eats website. I love it because you don’t have to purchase any ingredients like meringue powder. It’s also cooked briefly, making it completely safe for all to eat. The basic recipe definitely needed some thining with cream in order to be fluid enough for more complex decorating, but if you want to keep your decorating simple, it works as is.
Happy Baking! Happy Christmas! Happy Holidays!
Yields: 20-30 cookies, dependent on size of cookie cutters
Adapted from the cookbook, Baking Illustrated
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but trust me it’s great!)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a food processor, Process all dry ingredients (flour-salt) until well combined. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes and distribute evenly over the flour mixture in the processor. Process until the mixture resembles fine meal, 15-20 seconds. With the processor running, slowly add the molasses, milk, and vanilla. Process until the dough comes together. This could also be done with a hand mixer and large bowl, combining dry ingredients and adding butter, mixing until the texture is sandy, add molasses, milk, and vanilla and mix until combined.
Line your work surface with a sheet of parchment or wax paper that measures about 20 inches long. Remove half of your dough from the processor or mixing bowl and place on the parchment or waxed paper. Pat the dough into an even rectangle and place a second, 20-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper on top of the dough. Roll the rectangle between two sheets of paper until it measures about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the rolled out dough to a baking sheet (18×13) and put in the freezer for 15 minutes or the refrigerator for 2 hours. Repeat this process with your second half of dough.
Adjust the oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cut the cold dough into desired shapes and carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheets with a spatula, leaving an inch between cookies. Bake the first set of cookies in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, rotating cookie sheet halfway between cookie time. Place the second cookie sheet of cookies back into the fridge until the first set of cookies come out of the oven. Roll the scraps together into 1/4-inch thickness and put back into the fridge to firm up. Keep repeating this process of cutting out, rolling out scraps, cooling in fridge, and baking until all dough is used. Baking cold, cut-out cookies helps to keep a beautiful shape and makes them easier to handle. When cookies are done, allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
For decorating, I use this royal icing recipe from Serious Eats.