Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holiday Food - Part 2: Gingerbread trees and men.

Something that I started last year and has become an interesting tradition is cookies. I hadn't made many cookies except for peanut butter and chocolate chip in the past as I didn't see myself as too much of a baker. But as everything else in my kitchen, it's only a matter of time before I get the craving to try making something new, or to try and find out how to make the things I love. Last year I started with something I always loved, shortbread. Now shortbread is not too difficult, but it does take a little finesse. When I did a marble pinwheel by adding cocoa to 1/2 of the batter, layering it, rolling it up and cutting it into slices, I had a bit more confidence in the baking department. Instantly I wanted to try baking more and more.

This year I went with Gingerbread cookies, and not necessarily for the difficulty level but to me that and shortbread are the essence of Christmas baked goods. I was going to make a few different types as I was making a decorative tin of cookies for a secret santa gift, but the recipe I found made so many cookies I had my own gingerbread army. I also looked around for a good royal icing recipe and I will give you both, it's not too late to make gingerbread cookies.

Gingerbread cookies:
6 cups of flour
1 1/2 tbsp Cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
2/3 cup (vegetable) shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 cup molasses
1 lg egg
1/4 cup buttermilk

Combine 5 1/2 cups of flour with the baking soda, spices and salt. Cream the butter, shortening, sugar and Molasses together beat in egg and buttermilk. Add flour in stages, using the additional 1/2 cup if needed. Mix until no longer sticky and forms stiff dough. Divide dough into 3 and form into disks. Wrap and chill until use (min 1 hour) working with 1 disk at a time.

Roll out to 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of cling wrap (easier clean up and doesn't stick), and then using a floured cookie cutter cut out cookies. Bake for 12 mins in a 350 F oven. Let cool in tray for 5 mins before fully cooling on wire racks. Makes 50-60 4"X 2" cookies.

Royal Icing:
2 egg whites
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
2 cups icing sugar

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form add just a small pinch of salt to help hold volume. Add lemon juice and slowly incorporate icing sugar until thick icing forms (you should be able to drizzle lines that will stay on the surface of the icing).

Thicken with more icing sugar and thin with more egg whites.
I played around with food colouring for the christmas trees but use your imagination, the sky is the limit.

let me know how they go...

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