This little reindeer sends his Christmas greetings!
Nothing says "Christmas" around here louder than gingerbread. Our holiday simply would not be complete without some lovely - plain - gingerbread cookies, made from my trusty 1975 Joy of Cooking. The recipe produces a cookie that's perfectly spicy and dark, from a sturdy, workable dough that puffs just a bit when it cooks. I've made these cookies every year for at least 25 years, and this is one recipe I have not the slightest urge to replace. (recipe at end of this post)
One thing I love is that this dough doesn't need refrigeration. Just mix, roll, bake. But if you have to wait before you bake your cookies, or if you want to be ahead of the game, you can refrigerate or freeze the dough and bake the cookies at a later time.
This year I needed to think ahead to ensure that we would have our favorite cookies. I was in Germany until just 3 days before Christmas, so I made my dough early. To make things even easier, I tried something new, and this is the best trick:
I divided the dough in half, and put each into a gallon-sized zippered plastic bag. Then I rolled the dough inside the bag until it filled the bag to the edges and into the corners. It turned out beautifully even and ended up the perfect thickness. Then I popped it in the freezer.
When I got back from my trip, I pulled the bags from the freezer, cut them open, and voila! The dough was ready for the cookie cutters. The best part? There was no floury mess when I made the dough or when I cut the cookies!
Here are some of the cookies I made using cookie cutters I bought at the German Christmas markets:
from The Joy of Cooking
¼ c butter
½ c white or brown sugar
½ c dark molasses
3 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Blend butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in molasses.
3. Sift together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.
4. Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture in about three parts, alternately with the water. You may have to work in the last of the flour mixture with your hands if you are not using an electric mixer.
5. Roll the dough to any thickness and cut with a floured cookie cutter or by making a pattern of your own.
6. Decorate before baking with small raisins, bits of candied fruits, red-hots, marshmallows and citron, indicating features or buttons. (we're cookie purists. Those decorations detract from the straight gingerbread goodness, in our opinions.)
7. Bake the cookies 8 minutes or longer, according to their thickness. Test for doneness by pressing the dough with your finger. If it springs back after pressing, they are ready to be cooled on a rack.
8. Stir in a small bowl, to make a paste: ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar and a few drops water. Apply the icing with a wooden pick or a small knife for additional garnishes – caps, hair, mustaches, belts or shoes. (yep, we skip this too.)