It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
When C mentioned he wanted to send a bunch of Christmas goodies to his clients, I immediately volunteered my services. I imagined a basket of cookies, cupcakes and maybe a couple of chocolate truffles -- if I make some successfully when I try to -- studded with elegant silver dragees and perhaps some sort of Christmasy decorations that I hope to pick up from the baking supplies store sometime this week.
But first, a round of testing in the kitchen. Over the weekend, I pulled out my trusty Baking At Home with The Culinary Institute of America and attempted the recipe for Gingerbread Cookies. From the moment the batter was made, the smell was just awesome -- honey, dark brown sugar, ground spices like ginger, cloves and cinnamon richly amalgamated into butter, eggs and flour. Mmmm...it was enough to conjure Christmas right there in the tropical heat of my kitchen. As you might imagine, that heady scent also flooded the house once the cookies began cooking in the oven. Oxford waited desperately at the door hoping for a scrap or two to float his way. All he got, I'm afraid, was a pool of drool at his feet.
The recipe called for 5.5-inch star-shaped cookie cutters, but as I only had a small star-shaped cutter, I used that instead. The recipe makes about 48 small cookies or 24 large ones, and if you decide to make them small, be prepared to spend plenty of time icing them -- they are much more fiddly as diminutive stars. The cookies came out pretty cakey as well, which isn't bad at all, just not good if you were expecting harder crunchy cookies (which, um, I was). Still, they taste great though they soften even more when you leave them out to ice and then dry.
3 3/4 all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp ground all spice
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
Flourless cooking spray
Preheat oven to 180 degrees (or 375 degree Farenheight). Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking soda, ginger, allspice, and salt and set aside.
Cream butter, brown sugar, and honey on medium speed till smooth (about 2 minutes). Add eggs and mix till smooth and light (another 2 - 3 minutes). Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until the dough is evenly mixed. Turn it onto a lightly floured work surface, pat into an even disc, and chill for 10 minutes.
Roll dough to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out cookies with a cookie cutter. Transfer to prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake till firm (12 - 14 minutes). Transfer to wire racks and cool completely before decorating.
2 large egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2.5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
Beat egg whites on low speed in a clean, grease-free bowl until they become loose (1 min). Add cream of tartar and continue mixing on low speed till the whites become frothy (2 minutes). Add the sugar gradually with the mixer on low speed. Continue to mix until the icing reaches the consistency you want (in this case, a thickish goo-ey consistency so it's easy to pipe and spread).
(Recipes adapted from Baking At Home with The Culinary Institute of America)