Christmas Gingerbread Stars
A couple of weeks ago I had my 3-year-old son Theo’s best friend William and his mom (my friend) Heather over to decorate gingerbread men. I made four pounds of dough. In case you don’t know, that is waaaaay too much dough to expect a pair of preschoolers to roll, cut, bake and decorate. Especially when one of them (mine, of course) only signed up so he could eat the smarties and gummy bears and had no real intention of decorating anything.
Then the next day, I was troubled by the gingerbread men. I wasn’t totally happy with the flavour, and it’s a recipe on my blog, so I was obsessing and decided I wouldn’t be able to rest until I made them again.
Hours of testing later, and I realized it wasn’t me. It wasn’t the recipe. It was the MOLASSES I bought. I usually buy “Fancy” molasses, but this time I’d brought home the “Cooking” variety. If you’re not well versed in molasses (as I wasn’t), the latter is much stronger tasting and bitter. It almost has a black licorice flavour.
Anyway, I had already re-developed the recipe so that it tasted good with the molasses I had, and that resulted in my freezer being filled with another four pounds of dough (and a baker with a stomach ache).
But good news! These gingerbread cookies will taste excellent with Fancy or Cooking molasses (though I still really recommend the former).
And then I shot these pictures during the magic hour when the light is just golden and beautiful, and the icing looks like it is just glowing. I did not have time to do any set up, and have given up this wooden table for shooting because it looks too orange for my liking. But I love the warm sunny glow on the cookies. The sun set today to complete darkness at 4:15 pm. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? Ugh. This winter (which hasn’t actually officially even begun) is really getting to me.
Let me just leave you with one more thing. Royal Icing. The magical stuff that you can thin out (with water) to flood cookies with or thicken up (with more confectioners’ sugar) to pipe on tiny details. I forgot to get pasteurized egg whites, which I usually use, but a quick google search confirmed what I thought – you can actually just heat the egg whites from whole eggs to 160ºF, whisking constantly in a heat-proof bowl set over a small saucepan with 1″ of simmering water, and they’ll be totally safe. I am going to go this way exclusively from now on, because I never end up finding a use for the rest of the box of egg whites.
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup fancy not cooking or blackstrap molasses
- 3 large eggs
- 27 ounces 6 cups all purpose flour*
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
- 5 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground cloves
- Beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed in standing mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes, stopping to scrape down sides and bottom of mixer occasionally. Beat in molasses, and then eggs.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
- Add flour mixture to mixer with speed on low; beat until combined. Divide dough into two equal piles on top of parchment or wax paper; flatten into disc shapes and wrap up in the paper. Refrigerate 1 hour, or up to 48 hours in advance. (OR freeze for up to a month, just thaw on the counter or in the fridge.)
- Preheat oven to 375ºF. Working with one disc at a time, roll dough between sheets of floured parchment or wax paper to about 1/4" thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes, then lift them out with a metal spatula. (If you're having ANY difficulty lifting them, slide the parchment onto a baking sheet and pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up the dough.) Bake for 6-8 minutes, until set and no longer shiny.
- Press the dough scraps into another disc and repeat the process until all the dough is used. Transfer the dough to the freezer for a few minutes as needed anytime it gets too soft to work with.
- Get the Royal Icing recipe I used here.
- *I measured my flour by weight which I strongly recommend here, as 6 cups leaves a lot of room for variability - flour packs, and a little bit more or less in each "cup" can make a big difference in the final result.