December 2: Gingerbread

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The Perfect Gingerbread Cookie

(from Sweetapolita.com)

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 cups (815 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (283 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (220 g) light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup (220 g) cooking molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl between additions. Add molasses and vanilla and beat until completely incorporated.
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Dough should be soft (not dry or crumbly) but not sticky. If sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Divide the dough in 2, place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap, press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2″ thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Chill the discs of dough for at least 2 hours.
  5. Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of lightly floured parchment or wax paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn’t slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place two 1/4″ wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it’s flush with dowels–they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
  7. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or freezer for 15 minutes (or more).
  8. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two or three baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment. Remove the rolled dough from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters or template of choice, placing them on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the edges just start to brown, about 8 minutes for medium cookies, and 10 minutes for larger cookies (such as those in the photos).Be careful not to over-bake, or cookies will be dry. Collect remaining dough and re-roll once, repeating cutting and baking steps. Dough rolled out more than once will be a little tough, so it’s best to keep it to a 2-time roll-out maximum. 
  9. Cool sheets on wire racks for 20 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling. If cookies are too fragile, you can cool completely on trays.
  10. Decorate with royal icing, candies, sprinkles, and more.

So Gingerbread. It’s the stuff of Christmas dreams and Yankee Candles (but somehow the candles never actually smell like Gingerbread to me). Every year I make this, and every year I vow to just buy a new bottle of molasses. I didn’t this year. Again. That makes 15 years in a row! Through a biblical-esque miracle much like loaves and fishes, I had exactly the right amount of molasses this time around. It took about an hour to get it all out and at one point, I was wondering what was wrong with the specific gravity at my house.

I still got a little more out of it too!

But I digress.

I’ve always wanted to make an epic Gingerbread Scrabble board. I’ve thought about it for years, and for some reason, I always had to have it be Gingerbread. I think it has something to do with going to Disney World around Christmastime and seeing the things they build at the Grand Floridian out of Gingerbread.

If it’s good enough for the Mouse, it’s good enough for me.

Good kitty Zelda, watching me make her favorite cookies.

I found my spice girls and went to town. Now, I also did a few actual Gingerbread men too, but more on this later.

I won’t bore you with the details of how I measured and baked and frosted and screwed up so many times, my gingerbread started to go gray from royal icing. Well, if I’m being honest, it’s not about boring you, it’s about reliving the trauma.

There was math involved. And rulers. And at one point, I googled “equation for Scrabble board squares” and I was then mocked by Google.

But, it turned out pretty cool. I don’t think I’ll be eating this, but the whole point is I COULD. If there’s a problem and I’m the only survivor, I can live for at least 2 weeks on my Scrabble board.

Oh, and about the actual Gingerbread Men and Women. I made a few. One of my students comes to school everyday wearing a different heavy metal t-shirt. So I made this for him.

Breaking the law, breaking the law…

Honestly, it’s way cooler than the Gingerbread Scrabble game, and way less aggravating!