COOKIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS: GINGERBREAD

December. This is the time for baking cookies in all shapes and forms, but some are definitely more strongly associated with the holiday spirit. This posts opens a series of four chapters. I start with gingerbread, using a recipe from Tanya, tent-baker extraordinaire, aka The Gingerbread Queen. Subsequent posts will cover Sugar Cookies, Macarons, and Springerle. Gingerbread Cookies are not too hard as far as baking project goes, as long as you keep them as cookies instead of components of 3D sculptures (sigh). Because their flavor is so intense, they can be enjoyed with no decoration whatsoever, or with a very simple white Royal icing. So simple that you can even get by using a tip-less piping bag. And of course, sprinkles are always welcome. Always.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
(very slightly modified from Tanya’s blog)

640 grams all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
226 grams unsalted butter, at room temp
200 grams granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 large egg, at room temperature
120 mL (1/2 cup) honey
120 mL (1/2 cup) molasses
2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of stand mixer add the sugar with the orange zest and rub them well with your fingers, until fragrant. Add the butter, fit the machine with the paddle attachment and mix until well combined. Add the egg and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at least twice during mixing. Add the molasses, honey, and vinegar and mix well.

Turn off the mixer and add about half of the dry ingredients. Mix on low just to combine. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Gather the dough together into a ball and then flatten the dough into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for about 3 hours or until firm enough to roll without sticking.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 3/16-inch thickness. Cut out shapes, carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets and freeze for 5 minutes.

Bake until the cookies are firm to the touch and lightly browned around the edges. A three-inch round cookie will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely before frosting and/or assembling with royal icing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

For most of my decorations, I used Tanya’s recipe for Royal Icing with very little water added. For gingerbread, I prefer not to fully cover the cookie, so instead of flooding them, I piped shapes and wanted them to stay firmly in place.

You can keep it all super simple….

or… while keeping it simple couple the design with some gold for a festive twist

The star was left fully white, the others were painted with gold luster diluted with lemon extract. It is a bit hard to see it in the middle ones, because the gold was just applied on the white decorations.

Even if I rather not completely cover a gingerbread cookie, sprinkles (in this case sparkling sugar) are hard to resist… Just add them before the icing hardens. Keep in mind that the thicker the icing, the faster it sets.

Now what if you dislike Royal icing with a passion? Here is a pretty sweet alternative (pun intended).

EASY NON-ROYAL ICING

1 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons milk
2 tsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or almond, or lemon)

Whisk whisk whisk whisk…. If it flows as a thick ribbon from a spoon, it will be ready to use. You can flood the surface or make thick ribbons. Leave as it is, or go crazy with….. SPRINKLES!!!!

to print the recipe, click here

This icing will crust well in a few hours, but just to be safe don’t mess too much with the cookies for 24 hours, especially if you are going to pack them for gifts or shipping.

Stay tuned for Sugar Cookies next….

ONE YEAR AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

TWO YEARS AGO: White Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse Cake

THREE YEAR AGO: Panettone Time!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pistachio Creme Brulee

FIVE YEARS AGO: Fast and Furious Bison Chili

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, December 2014

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Revenge of the Two Derelicts

NINE YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

TEN YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta




MACARONS FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON


One recipe, two colors, four different ways to decorate, from simple to a little more time-consuming. It is definitely the reason why I adore macarons. You can dress them up for party or keep them simple, and play with filling flavors that match any season. For these Christmas-inspired versions, I filled some with raspberry jam and others with white chocolate-mint ganache.

CHRISTMAS MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from Colette Christian)

for the shells:
200 g powdered sugar
115 g almond meal
115 g egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Red or Green gel color from Artisan Accents
1/4 tsp vanilla paste

for the filling:
Raspberry jam
or
240g white chocolate, chopped
5 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 to 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/8 cup mini mint chocolate chips (optional)

to decorate:
white candy melts
red food color
gold dust dissolved in lemon extract or vodka
sprinkles of your choice
or
Royal Icing:
40 g egg whites
210 g powdered sugar
lemon juice

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and almond meal in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull, 30 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F.  Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling:  Melt the white chocolate with the mint chips (if using) in a double boiler or microwave, very gently. Add the heavy cream and stir until smooth. Add the peppermint extract. Allow it to cool to almost room temperature and whisk with a hand-held mixer to achieve piping consistency. Do not over-whip or the ganache will go grainy. Use to fill shells.

Decorate with melted Candy melts and sprinkles. For the brush effect, use a fan brush on a mixture of gold dust with lemon extract. To make the Royal Icing mix all ingredients in a Kitchen Aid type mixer for 5 minutes, adjust consistency with lemon juice or powdered sugar.

Store macarons in the fridge for 24 hours before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


These shells were decorated with Royal Icing using either a very fine piping tip (Wilton number 1), or a slightly bigger tip (Wilton number 3). Sanding sugar was sprinkled on some macarons while still wet and allowed to dry.  They were filled with White Chocolate Ganache, and tasted amazing!


The filling for this batch was a simple, store-bought raspberry jam, decorated with white candy melts dyed red.

Raspberry Jam filling once again, with a drizzle of white candy melts and sprinkles…

They really make it for a nice, festive presentation that screams Christmas! I made them when I had a special interview at home for our evening news… If you’d like to see it, click here


But the simplest of all to decorate might be one of my favorites… I love the contrast of gold with green… Red and gold could be wonderful too, I might bake another batch before saying goodbye to 2019.

ONE YEAR AGO: Apple and Sobacha Caramel Dome Cake 

TWO YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Peppermint Macarons (serendipity?)

THREE YEARS AGO: Shrubs, a fun alternative to alcoholic drinks

FOUR YEARS AGO: Date Truffles 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Mousse from Baking Chez Moi

SIX YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

NINE YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

TEN YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake