Wednesday 10 December 2014

Gingerbread Nativity

So I think I'm a convert now to gingerbread.

I used to always use the Joy of Cooking recipe at Christmas for all my cookie cutters, and while it keeps its shape and is ok, it just didn't have the kick of ginger snaps or really much of anything going for it. I voiced this opinion and was told by a super secret person that they had a super secret recipe that I should try before giving up on gingerbread.

That recipe sat in my inbox until this week. To be fair, I got it in January, and I really don't get a hankering for gingerbread until at least Hallowe'en (I have spooky cookie cutters) or usually Christmas season. So I pulled it out, stocked up on molasses and gave it a whirl.

Naturally, it started, as all good recipes do, with lots of butter and sugar.

I wasn't in the mood for hand creaming this, so out came the electric beaters.

I decided this was blended enough for me.

Then in went an egg. It was on the last day of its life according to the box, but I wasn't too concerned.

After another egg was added in the mixture looked a bit curdled, but not so much as to worry me.

In went sticky, sweet, blackstrap molasses. High in iron, doncha know. That's why you can find it in health stores here, but will struggle to find it in supermarkets and most food stores. I also added in "sour" milk. I was supposed to add just a half cup, but I put in a whole cup. At this point I had not realised this. Oh, and some orange zest went in because I've always put it in gingerbread before and it felt strange not to.

Only when it looked like this did I figure it out. Oops. Time to improvise.

I asked myself, what would Robert do. He answered by licking the beaters of sugar and butter. Hmph. And yes, we do have a classy advent candle holder there in the background. It's proper fancy.

So I just decided to put an extra cup of flour extra into the flour, spice and leavening mixture and give it a whirl.

I started to panic a little as it was a very, very sticky dough compared to other rolled cookie doughs I've encountered. But when I looked back at the recipe, it said that even if you actually follow the directions and measure the ingredients correctly it is a fairly sticky dough.

So I said a small prayer and put 3 blobs between sheets of greaseproof paper.

I flattened them down a bit and placed them in the fridge overnight. I hadn't meant for it to be overnight, but life happened.

This morning I took it out and it looked like this. Not a perfect mixture, but if you are just baking for family and friends, who really cares?

A sprinkling of sugar went on before cutting out the cookies. Sparkles!!!

They were admittedly quite difficult to extract from their cutters, but they made it to the cookie sheet looking like this. It's a nativity set I got last year for Christmas - word of my baking hobby has spread.

A mere 8 minutes later I took them out and they had puffed to extreme proportions. I guess Joseph, Mary, and the kings just had too much salt in their diets. Hmmm. Normally I wouldn't mind too much but as the whole point here was they they were supposed to look like shapes that all related to each other I decided to do something extreme.

I cut them AGAIN while they were still warm. I saw them do this on the Great British Bake off and it seemed to work. The good things were I got to have the shapes I wanted as the end result and I got to taste the trimmings. The bad things were that all the cookies lost their lovely crunchy/chewy biting edge and I will now have them instead as a moment on my lips lifetime on my hips.

But I did it anyway. My son helped with the cut-offs.

Because they were amazing. Seriously the best gingerbread cookies I've had. I left the stable as it was, and ended up with this to greet the kids when they came home from school today.

So, without further ado, the super secret recipe...shhhhhhh....

Gingerbread Cookies!
1 Cup white sugar
1 cup butter, softened, of course
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup sour milk (or add 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar to the milk)
4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
5 cups flour

Blend the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time. Then add other liquid ingredients and mix.

Sift together the flour, rising agents & spices and add gradually to the batter.

This is the only cookie dough that I find really needs a stand mixer or a mixer of some sort, because it gets very stiff with all the flour.

Even for being very stiff, it's still quite a sticky dough right after the mixing. Wrap the dough in wax paper or plastic wrap, in sort of flattened discs, usually 2 or 3, and refrigerate it. The flattened discs are in preparation for rolling out the dough after it's chilled. I usually make the dough the night before and let it chill overnight, but I'm sure an hour or two would do it. The dough also keeps very well, if you make it and only roll out part.

Roll out the dough like you would any other cookie dough or pie crust, but fairly thick - about a 1/4 inch. We always sprinkle the dough with regular white sugar, and go at it with your cookie cutters.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. The cookies should puff up quite a bit and should still be a little bendy when you take them out of the oven. It also helps to store them in an airtight container with a piece of bread, so they stay soft.

No comments:

Post a Comment