piquant gingerbread cookies.Posted in baking, cookies, favorites, holiday, recipes, sweet | 4 comments
Alright, we are now full-swing into a somewhat manic phase of holiday baking. And no plate of Christmas treats would be complete without gingerbread cookies. I was thinking outside the gingerbread “man” cookie cutter… I have instead been inspired by my recent immigration to the twitterverse and opted for “gingerbread tweets” in the shape of twittering birds (and other shapes, too). This gingerbread cookie recipe is a spicy variation with the standard ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and adds a little extra edge with a subtle dash of piquant cayenne pepper.
Some gingerbread cookies are dry, brittle, teeth-breakers; but these are not that type of cookie. No, they’re lovely, firm and sturdy enough to stand up to a bevy of decorations and edible accessories (if you desire), yet delicate and soft to the tooth, with a velvety texture that remains even days after they’ve been baked (provided they are stored in an air-tight container). Even if you are using them as ornaments or gift tags — thus leaving them exposed to the air for a day or two — while they will definitely have a little more crunch, they will still succumb (quite willfully) to a gentle bite.
Gingerbread Cookies (Men, Women, Birds, Bells, whatever…)
½ cup butter, softened
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
3 cups all purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp salt
Royal Icing Ingredients
4 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp meringue powder
½ tsp vanilla/almond/lemon extract
½-¾ cup warm water
food coloring (optional)
- Depending on your penchant for spice, you can increase, reduce or omit the cayenne pepper in this recipe. The small amount in the recipe just adds a pleasant and interesting zip that beautifully complements the spicy sweetness of your basic gingerbread cookie and icing.
- *These cookies may also be used as hanging decorations, decorative edible gift tags, or ornaments for your tree. For this use, simply punch a small hole in the unbaked cookie shape using a skewer or the end of a straw wherever you’d like to insert a ribbon or string.
- Royal Icing can be made with raw egg whites, but due to concerns of salmonella (especially if the cookies are to be consumed by children, pregnant women or others with potentially compromised immune systems) I stick to the safe variety using meringue powder.
- **Royal Icing – getting the correct consistency: to cover or flood the surface of the cookie (without oozing off or being too runny) the perfect consistency is when you lift the beater and the ribbon of icing that dribbles back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing. It may be used to “paint” cookies on its own, or as a glue to attach sprinkles, currants, candies or other decorations.
- I’ve recently started using food coloring gel pastes instead of the usual liquid forms you find at the grocery store. The gel pastes are more concentrated and come in a huge assortment of hues. Used by professional bakers, they can be found at Michael’s craft store, professional baking shops, and elsewhere online. I used Wilton’s Cornflower Blue.
- In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses until well mixed, scraping down the sides of bowl, as necessary.
- In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper and salt.
- Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until well combined.
- Form dough into a ball; divide in half, form each half into a flat disc, and wrap each disc in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to overnight.
- When ready, remove dough disc from fridge 3 or 4 minutes before you’re ready to roll it out.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
- On lightly floured surface — using a lightly floured rolling pin — roll out dough to ¼-inch thickness.
- Use a cookie cutter shape of your choosing to cut out the cookies; remove to a parchment-lined baking sheet using an offset spatula, spacing them 1 inch apart. *If using the cookies as hanging ornaments or gift tags, pierce the punch-holes now.
- Bake cookies in preheated (350 degree F) oven for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies; 8 minutes for smaller cookies and 12 minutes for larger ones. Bake until cookies are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown.
- Remove baking sheet from oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 1 or 2 minutes; when cookies are firm enough, transfer them to a wire rack. Allow cookies to cool fully before icing and/or decorating.
Royal Icing Directions
- In large mixing bowl (using electric or hand mixer) beat icing sugar and meringue powder briefly to combine.
- Add water and beat on medium-high speed for 5-7 minutes, until very glossy and stiff peaks form. **Add more powdered sugar or water (as necessary) to get the correct spreading consistency (see tip above).
- Royal icing begins to harden when exposed to air, so use immediately or cover with plastic wrap (or in an air-tight container) when not in use. Makes 3 cups.
Recipe Adapted From: The Joy of Baking