A gingerbread treat for Santa

22nd December, 2010 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Gingerbread cookies with white icing

It has long been proven that the area of the brain that holds our memories is very near the area that processes scents. Which is why certain scents can transport us back in time to the first day of school, a swimming pool on a hot summer day or our grandma’s kitchen during the hoildays.

Warm cinnamon, cloves and vanilla are the universal smells of Christmas and one of the few dishes that bring all those together is gingerbread.

Gingerbread covers a lot of ground, depending on where you are and what the cooking traditions of the region might be. Ranging from cake to a thin cookie, gingerbread is one of the oldest baked dishes in history. There are records of ginger cake sweetened with honey being baked by the French as far back as twelfth century. What all the recipes have in common is that they are all sweetened with molasses or treacle – giving the final product it’s distinctive deep brown color -  and heavily flavored with ginger.

English gingerbread is generally more bread-like and soft. German and Swedish gingerbread uses the same flavor profile, but is much crisper and is the kind we turn to when it’s time to build a gingerbread house. The recipe below is ideal for decorating and house building.

If your only exposure to gingerbread cookies has come from breaking off a chunk of a two-week-old frosted house, then you really owe it to yourself to make a batch of fresh gingerbread cookies. The flavor is bright and the texture is soft

Gingerbread comes together pretty easily and is a great dough to use when entertaining children on a rainy day. The only difference between this and any other cookie dough is the resting time. Once the dough is mixed, let it stand – covered – for at least two hours before doing anything with it. The rest time gives the gluten in the flour time to relax and become much less sticky.  The dough can be held chilled for up to five days or frozen indefinitely.

When assembling the ingredients, be sure to use powdered ginger from the spice section and not fresh ginger. They are very different products that behave in different ways and should not be substituted for each other.

Once the dough has rested and everyone is ready for the next step, lightly flour the work surface, the rolling pin and the dough. Use just enough flour to keep everything from getting tacky. Roll the dough to a quarter-inch thickness and cut with your favorite cutters. If cookie cutters feel too much like an assembly line, use a paring knife and go free-form.

The dough will puff slightly while baking, but not enough to ruin any shapes it’s been cut into. Bake for seven to 10 minutes and rotate the sheets half-way through. Be careful to not over bake them, which is easy to do, since the dough is already brown going into the oven. Use a timer to be safe.

Once the cookies are baked, cool on a rack then decorate as desired. Be sure to save a few for Santa Claus.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)

Directions:
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended.
In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended. Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue to mix until well blended. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.

Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. (Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, but in this case it should be refrigerated. Return to room temp before using.)

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin. Roll dough to a scant 1/4-inch thick, use additional flour to avoid sticking.

Cut out cookies with desired cutter and space cookies on sheet 1 1/2-inches apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow the cookies to stand until the cookies are firm enough to move to a wire rack.

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Posted on: December 22, 2010

Filed under: Dessert, Vegetarian

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