The fireplace is roaring in front of me; the flames dancing to a song known only to them. This ballet of intertwining colors is mesmerizing to watch. Whether I'm next to a bonfire on a cool summer's eve or watching the flames next to a frosted windowpane, I have a difficult time averting my eyes from the entrancing display of light and crackling wood.
I am home for the holidays, curled up on the couch after a long afternoon's drive. With the enchanting, yearning songs from Sufjan Steven's Christmas Album filling the silence of the room (my favorite of all holiday music), a peaceful atmosphere is set. It feels good to be home. The familiarity lends a snug, comforting quality that the white walls of my apartment simply cannot provide. This is especially true around this cold time of year, as the warmth from the twinkling white and colored lights greet me as I travel around the house.
A few days ago it occurred to me I had never made (or eaten) gingerbread cookies. It was an abrupt realization, taking me off-guard for a moment. Certainly I've had gingerbread before, I thought to myself, searching for memories of taste or gingerbread men. I searched the corners of my childhood, but the memories never came. As a baker, it's not often that I surprise myself suddenly or so powerfully. More often than not, it feels like I've made everything, particularly as I'm sitting down and trying to imagine up new recipes to share with you.
The time was right to create new memories.
I assembled the ingredients from my cupboard, brought out my stand mixer, and the gingerbread journey began. With the spice of gingersnaps and the softness of a sugar cookie in mind, I created a hybrid of the two recipes—my version of a gingerbread cookie. It seemed only fitting to create gingerbread men out of the dough, as the old folktale I had heard so long ago came to mind. The cookie cutters were already in the cupboard, used to shape men out of my family's favorite honey cookies for the holidays last year. This time, however, it seemed the cutters were following their true purpose.
Whether decorated in their best attire or left plain to enjoy straight from the oven, these gingerbread men bring a little happiness into the lives of those who devour them, one limb at a time.
Gingerbread Cookies are a holiday cut-out cookie with character. The cookies have a dark undertone, furnished from the dark brown sugar and a heavy amount of molasses. Spiced with the flavors of winter and ground ginger, the cookies are fragrant with a distinctive taste. The dough rolls out easily with the aid of a little flour. These cookies are wonderful to enjoy with family or brought to parties to share with friends.
For perfect cut-out cookies, follow this set of tips!
Yields 2-3 dozen cookies
8 tablespoons (115 grams) butter
1/3 cup (65 grams) dark brown sugar
2/3 cup (155 ml) dark molasses
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar. Add in the molasses and egg and continue mixing. Mix in the baking soda, spices, and salt. Gradually add the flour, stirring until well combined.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour to firm up the dough.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper for best cookie removal (gingerbread tends to stick to the pan).
Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick and cut out the cookies using cookie cutters. If the dough gets too soft while rolling out, place it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it back up. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. Remove and allow to rest on the baking sheet for a couple minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.