We baked a few batches of cookies this week, and this one was undoubtedly the most fun to make! Decorating them was a total laughter riot. I made the faces on request from my toddler. He requested for angry-face, scary-face and Peppa Pig. Yes there is a Peppa Pig in there too, just look for the one with the snout!
Earlier this week, at my son’s playgroup, we had a mini Christmas party, with parents bringing along some treats. One parent brought along classic gingerbread cookies, made by his mother, parceled and flown from Australia halfway across the world. It tasted perfect! There was a beautiful kick of ginger and spices and the cookies were beautifully textured. You may notice a pattern in this blog…anything with spices seems to get my vote. I generally pass up regular cookies in favor of spiced ones (unless there is chocolate involved, in which case chocolate wins, every-time)
So of course, once we got home from playgroup, I had to try making gingerbread men. It took me a while to get the recipe right. The first time I tried them, I used a recipe that called for a lesser molasses-to-flour ratio. The texture and taste were not quite up to the mark (see the last picture in this post).
The second time around, I consulted the high priestess of all baking websites, otherwise known as Sally’s Baking Addition. I tweaked the recipe a little, this time with a higher proportion of molasses and ginger, and they came quite close to the lovely ones that traveled from Australia.
Over this week of marathon cookie making, I’ve learned a few things. My preferred way of rolling out cookie dough is to roll it between two sheets of cling film. This is by far the best way to get a smooth and even sheet of rolled dough for cut-out cookies. The dough has to be handled chilled. One advantage of this recipe is that the amount of butter in this recipe is lesser than that in most cookie dough recipes, which makes it slightly easier to work with once the dough warms up. However, do ensure that the dough is chilled for at least 1 hour before you begin rolling it out.
I made a simple egg-based royal icing recipe, easy to make and quick to set. The best option is to use pasteurized egg whites if that is available where you live. Here in Switzerland, these are not available, so I use organic eggs. Avoid eggs altogether if you are wary of raw-eggs and food-borne illnesses.
- 3 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon powder
- 140g unsalted butter at room temperature
- ¾ cup light brown sugar (I make my own brown sugar using molasses and granulated sugar by combining 1 cup of sugar and 1.5 tablespoon molasses in a food processor)
- ⅔ cup molasses (available at most apothekes in Switzerland)
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- For the Royal Icing:
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup confectioners sugar (icing sugar), sifted
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- Start by sifting together the dry ingredients - combine the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger powder, cinnamon powder in mixing bowl and keep this aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat the butter in a mixing bowl using a hand mixer or in a stand-mixer. Beat the butter until fluffy
- Add the brown sugar, molasses, egg and vanilla extract and continue to mix on low speed
- Slowly, and in 3 batches, add the dry ingredients
- When the dough just begins to come together, stop mixing
- Using your hands, turn out the dough on a work bench and bring it together
- Separate the dough into three parts and shape each part into a rough ball
- Using cling film, roll up each ball of dough and keep them to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Gingerbread dough is supposed to be best kept overnight, giving the spices time to mature
- After chilling, take out a ball at a time and roll out the dough between two pieces of cling film, the thickness of the sheet should be slightly thicker than that of a coin
- As you take the dough out of the fridge, begin preheating the oven at 150 C (300F)
- Using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
- Bake the cookies at 150 C for 15 minutes
- As the cookies cool, they will harden
- Prepare the royal icing:
- In a mixing bowl, beat the egg white using a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer, until soft peaks form
- Add the sifted confectioners sugar and continue to whip till the icing is thick and of pipe-able consistency
- Add a little lemon juice and whip till just combined
- Use the royal icing immediately
Rolling the dough between cling film is the easiest way to ensure evenly and smoothly rolled dough
Royal icing is best made with egg whites, always use organic, and if possible pasteurized egg whites. Meringue powder is a good substitute. Here is a good guide to preparing royal icing and storing it: http://sweetopia.net/2011/01/how-do-you-store-royal-icing-and-how-long-can-you-keep-it/