Crisp Gingerbread Cookies
makes 16 large cookies
6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup unsulfured molasses
Recipe requires the following tools/supplies: parchment paper, plastic wrap, wax paper, icing tips and parchment paper icing bags, sprinkles or other cookie decorations (as desired) and paste food coloring.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
Mix in spices, salt, pepper, eggs and then molasses.
Add in half the flour mixture on low speed, then slowly add in the remaining portion.
Divide dough into thirds, tear off several sections of plastic wrap the size of the cookie sheet used to bake the cookies. Place section of dough on plastic wrap, place second layer of plastic wrap on top of cookie dough.
Flatten dough first using your hands, then use rolling pin to roll out dough to an even thickness of 1⁄8 or 1⁄4 inch depending on desired thickness of cookies.
Chill dough by placing sheet of cookie dough onto cookie sheet and place in freezer until dough is firm.
Repeat the creation of cookie dough sheets until all the cookie dough is rolled out and prepared for chilling. Stack layers of cookie dough sheets on cookie pan to ensure the dough is lying flat while chilling.
Chill dough until firm. Dough should not deform or bend when removed from freezer. This will make it easier to work with and make well formed cookies.
Cut several sheets of parchment paper sized to cover the cookie sheet used for baking. Set parchment paper sheets aside.
Begin pre-heating oven to 350℉.
Remove sheet of cookie dough from freezer. Remove one side of plastic wrap and then re-apply plastic wrap. The goal is to have the under side of the cookie dough sheet on the plastic wrap, but not stuck to the plastic wrap as tight as it was upon removing from freezer. Lay cookie dough down on work surface with the less 'stuck' side of the plastic wrap down. Remove top layer of plastic wrap.
Using lightly floured cookie cutters, cut out cookie shapes and transfer to parchment paper on top of cookie sheet. If cookie dough has chilled long enough, the cookies will remove cleanly from the plastic wrap. If cookies do not remove easily from the plastic wrap, place plastic wrap back over cookie dough sheet and put cookie dough back in freezer to chill longer.
Leave room between cookies on the parchment paper for dough spread during baking.
Repeat process of working with chilled dough and place cookies to be baked on parchment paper sheet while current batch of cookies are baking. When cookies have finished baking, remove cookie sheet from oven and slide parchment paper with baked cookies on it to the counter top. Slide parchment paper with cookies not yet baked onto the hot cookie pan and place in oven to bake. Remove baked cookies from parchment paper with a metal spatula and transfer to wire racks to cool.
Once cookies have cooled to the touch, they can be organized by shape and size in preparation for decorating.
Royal Icing (makes 2 1⁄2 cups)
2 large egg whites, or 5 tablespoons meringue powder mixed with scant 1⁄2 cup of water
1 pound confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice (lemon juice used to add contrasting flavor to gingerbread cookie. If desired, plain water can be substituted)
In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites, sugar and the 2 teaspoons of lemon juice on low speed for 10 minutes. If icing is too thick, add additional teaspoon of lemon juice. If too thin, beat 2 to 3 minutes more. Separate into 3⁄4 cup portions, add food coloring paste to achieve desired colors.
Using parchment icing bags, fill each bag with colored icing, apply decorating tips as shown in steps 6, 7 & 8. Place filled icing bags in small containers with a damp paper towel at the base of each small container or drinking glass. The damp paper towel will keep the icing from drying and clogging the frosting tip.
Using a #2 tip for piping, outline the cookies with a slow steady bead of icing. For floodwork on cookies use a #5 tip or carefully add frosting with a small icing spatula. Here is an excellent photo tutorial on floodwork icing cookies.
This recipe was originally published in Martha Stewart Living magazine 1997 December #55, but the original recipe left a lot of crucial steps out if you actually wanted to make cookies. There was no mention of the layering of plastic wrap on the dough and chilling the dough to the point of stiffness, nor was there any mention of using parchment paper under the cookies.
The original recipe suggest using Silpat mats. Silpat mats retail for around $30 today, heaven knows what they cost in 1997 - I sure couldn't afford it. The magazine also offered a set of oversized Christmas ornament cookies for around $45. Again, that was a massive amount of money for my 1997 budget.
Necessity is the mother of invention: I went down to my local surplus store Skycraft Surplus and found 1⁄2 inch strips of stainless steel. I used a pair of pliers to bend the steel into the ornament shapes shown in the magazine and secured them with a bolt and locking nut. Yay for DIY!