Thirty years ago one of my best friends and I decided that we were disenchanted with all the commercialization of the holiday season. We decided to make old fashioned Christmas baskets – a tradition that continues to this day. The size and scope and contents of these baskets change year to year – except one thing and that is our gingerbread cookies. These are also a favorite of my sons who requests “moms” gingerbread cookies every year. This recipe is from Rose Levy Berenbaum and over the years we have made some modifications. It can easily be doubled (which we routinely do) One of the changes that we have made is that we make the dough at least two days before we are ready to bake the cookies. When we are ready to cut out and bake the cookies we first roll the dough out (using a rolling pin with a cheese cloth cover – this prevents the need for additional flour which means you get to use every bit of dough) and put it in the refrigerator. As you reroll the dough you will see that the dough gets darker and darker We let that chill for at least a half hour, put the cut cookies on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and then we bake. This assures that the cookies will (a) not spread and (b) will keep their lines clean. We use a classic royal icing when we are decorating or leave them plain.
Courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum (www.realbakingwithrose.com)
3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light molasses, preferably Grandma’s brand (use a greased liquid measuring cup to measure)
1 large egg
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Measure the flour using the dip-and-sweep method. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices, then whisk together to mix evenly.
In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the molasses and egg to the creamed mixture and beat until blended.
On low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture until incorporated. Do not over mix as this will result in a tough dough.
Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap, not your fingers, to press the dough together to form a thick flat disk. Wrap it well and refrigerate for 2 hours. BREAK TIME!
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Place parchment paper on the cookie sheet. Roll out the dough to about a thickness of inch. (TIP: we use rolling pins with thickness adapters on each end) Use gingerbread cutters to cut out the dough. With a metal spatula, transfer the cut dough onto the prepared baking sheets, placing them about 1 inch apart and put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. TIP: If desired, make holes in the cookies for hanging as ornaments.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes for small cookies and up to 10 to 12 minutes for the larger ones, or until firm to the touch.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Once completely cool, decorate with royal icing.
To make the royal icing put all ingredients in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat for 5-7 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy.
NOTE: This recipe can rest in the refrigerator for a month or in the freezer for six months. The baked cookies stay fresh for at least a week.