Sweet & Spicy Gingerbread Cookies
Written by Betsy A. Eno
Fill your home this season with the delicious scents of cinnamon, ginger and cloves by mixing up a batch of yummy gingerbread cookies. Whether you’re baking cookies to give as gifts, making a delightful party item, or just for the sheer enjoyment of it, we offer some unique and fun cookie decorating ideas that we hope will be added to your list of holiday favorites.
Classic Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup molasses
In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. In another bowl with electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses, and beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until incorporated.
Divide the dough in two, wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Roll out the dough to the thickness of about 1/4 inch on a lightly floured surface. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the cookies or draw your own shape on a thin piece of cardboard with a stencil. Lift the cut-out cookies onto the baking sheet with an offset spatula, placing them about one inch apart.
Bake 8 minutes for small cookies and 12 minutes for larger ones. If you prefer your cookies on the softer side, bake them a little less than the recipe states, as the longer they bake, the harder they will become.
The cookies are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about one minute. When firm enough to move, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
If desired, you may press raisins, currants, or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Confectioners’ frosting can be used to decorate the cookies. You can also use the icing as a glue to attach candies, raisins, and sprinkles.
Basic Confectioners’ Frosting
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar), sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk or light cream
Assorted food colorings (if desired)
In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth and well blended, add the vanilla extract. Turn the mixer on low speed and gradually beat in sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes). If the frosting is too dry or stiff, add a little more milk. Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and decorate the gingerbread cookies as desired. Tint portions of frosting with food coloring (you can also use the paste variety, which is available at craft and party stores). Makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on the size of cookie cutter used. Store in an airtight container.
Celebrate the season tropical-style by making some fish-shaped gingerbread cookies. Once they are cut out, baked and cooled, outline the body of the fish with frosting, draw a circle for the eye and pipe rows of half circles for scales. To serve, place on a gold charger or platter, or fill a small tackle box lined with wax paper and give them as a gift to the fishing enthusiast in your life.
Display an eclectic mix of gingerbread cookies by cutting out a variety of shapes, such as traditional holiday trees, seaside shells, and popular hearts. Keep your decorating simple by using the same color of frosting for each cookie. When the icing has set, place them on an embellished plate, or fill a cookie tin or jar, attach a bow and give to someone special.
A combination of swirls, dots, lines and crisscrosses adds style and sophistication to these cookies. When the icing is dry, lean them against one another on a decorative plate. Then place them on a tray covered with a white napkin, accompanied by your favorite hot beverage. Adorn the tray with some gold bulbs and berries, and you’ve got a delicious, festive presentation.
Turn your baked goods into memorable keepsake ornaments. After cutting out your desired shape, poke a hole approximately 1/4 inch from the top using a straw or a wooden skewer. Once the cookies are baked, cooled, decorated, and dried, place a ribbon through the hole. Then wrap them up as a present, hang them on your tree, or use them as an embellished package topper.
Sunny & Sweet
Who can resist these adorable gingerbread people dressed in the perfect paradise attire? Decorate by squeezing out a thin layer of frosting to draw the faces and swimsuits. Immediately pour sprinkles, sugar beads, or colored sugar over the bathing suits. Use chocolate icing to finish the eyes, nose, and buttons, and red to draw the lips on the gingerbread girl. There’s no doubt these little cuties will be the highlight of any party!
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