Tag Archives: butter

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

I tell people my kids decorate the cookies.

I’ve pretty much always hated gingerbread, in all forms, until about 2 years ago.   Maybe I had bad gingerbread in the past.  Maybe I didn’t want to waste the calories on a non-chocolate cookie.  Who knows.  I had no interest in gingerbread.  Plus, my attempts at icing a cookie would probably get me a star spot on a pinterest fail website.  In other words, while I can cook, I cannot decorate.  I don’t think I have the fine motor skills required for such precision work.  So, these cookies were never on my “to make list” because they lacked chocolate and required decoration.  One day I was looking at traditional Christmas fare and, well, gingerbread is pretty traditional and old.  It should be something I tried.   I tried making it, and… it was awesome, for a non-chocolate cookie!!  While I still can’t decorate them well (see above), poor optics is a small price to pay for good cookies.

Despite all the grand varieties of Christmas cookies I am willing to make (and eat!!), the kids request this cookie first every year!

Gingerbread is a rather old food, some think as many as a thousand years old.    It can be a crisp cookie or a thick bread.  It can be dark in color or light.  There’s really no one gingerbread.  What I love about these cookies is that they aren’t particularly sweet, but very crisp and are bursting with traditional Christmas spices.  Also, no mixer is used in the making of these cookies, allowing multiple cookie doughs to be prepared at one time!

As this is a very old fashioned recipe, it lacks a certain level of fussiness.  No need to refrigerate the dough for an hour (or overnight).  The dough is incredibly easy to roll out.  It’s not sticky at all.  It won’t mess up your hands or completely coat your dough roller.  It doesn’t need to rise.  You make it, you bake it.    I cannot speak highly enough about this recipe.

Typically, I try to use historical recipes for my blog.  However, when I looked through all of my historical recipe books for a really old gingerbread cookie recipe, the measurements were a bit scary.  A peck of flour.  Um, say again?  A dozen eggs.  How many cookies are we making?!?!  So, I found a recipe on epicurious.com that used traditional methods but had actual measurements I could follow.  I tweaked it and came up with the one below.  I cannot stress how easy these are to make, but more importantly, how awesome they are to eat.

Having made this recipe lots of times, you really need to Martha Stewart the prep work and have it all done and ready to go before you begin. The recipe moves very fast. Again, it’s not hard, just fast.

Gingerbread Cookies
Yield: Depends on size of cookie cutters
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 9-10 minutes per batch (turn cookie sheet halfway through at the 4 minute mark)

2/3 cup molasses (not robust)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown with no adverse consequences)
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a heavy bottomed 4 quart sauce pan, bring molasses, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once a boil is reached, remove pan from the stove and add the baking soda. The mixture will foam and “grow” at this point, as well as lighten in color slightly. If you have kids, this part is really cool. After the baking soda is incorporated, add the butter 2-3 pieces at a time. Butter should be completely incorporated prior to the next addition. Add the egg and combine well. Stir in the flour and salt.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough is soft and easy to handle. You may need to add some flour if the dough is too wet (no more than ¼ cup). I’ve never really had to add much more than an obligatory sprinkle on top, no where near the ¼ cup. Unfortunately, this isn’t an exact science, so I can’t give you a precise amount.

Divide the dough in half. Wrap half of the dough in plastic wrap and set aside. Roll the remaining dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8th of an inch. Use your favorite cookie cutters and cut shapes. Transfer the cookies to a lined baking sheet (with a silicone liner or parchment paper, etc.), and bake about 9-10 minutes. The directions of the original recipe advise to bake “until the edges are slightly darker”. Well, the cookies are really dark to begin with, so I never see much of a difference. They just look done at somewhere around the 9 to 10 minute mark.

Cool on wire racks and decorate. I use cookie icing products that have the tips built in. I know, it’s processed “food” and bad. I’m already eating a cookie loaded with gluten and sugar. We are beyond bad at this point. Besides, these products don’t taste that much different than homemade and are so much easier to clean up!!

Gingerbread Cookie Spices

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookie Dough

GIngerbread Cookie dough

Soft and ready to roll!!

Pie or Pastry Crust

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Behold my flaky layers!

There’s nothing that seems to scare the crap out of people more than flour, salt, solid fat (butter, lard, shortening), and cold water.  In other words, pastry.   When I bring pies to places people cannot believe I have made my own pie crust.  It’s like a bucket list item:  Climbed Everest, Visited Easter Island, made own Pie Crust.  Done.

The Food Industrial Complex has made people so complacent that most don’t see the need to make their own crust.  Just unroll the crust from the refrigerated section of your grocery store and BAM! pie crust.  But is it really?  Gummy, lacking any snap or palpable flakey layers, is it really pie crust?  Or something lesser.  Let’s look at the competition.

Pillsbury Rolled Pie Crust ingredient list:

Wheat Starch, Lard Partially Hydrogenated, with BHA and, BHT To Protect Flavor, Wheat Flour Bleached, Water, Sugar, Rice Flour, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate Preservative, Sodium Propionate Preservative, Citric Acid, Color(s), with Yellow 5 and, Red 40

My ingredients?  Seriously: flour, sugar, butter, lard, salt and cold water.  No competition.  I’m not even sure what Wheat Starch is and why it is the largest ingredient on the list.  Flour is a distant third.  What’s wrong with their ingredients that they need to add food coloring?  Oh, that’s right, there’s no butter to give the “pie crust” a warm golden color.

The competition is rather sad.  A pale imitation of real pie crust.  In The 1892 Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer (yes, she was a real person), there is an entire chapter dedicated to pastry.   In this chapter Fannie Farmer divides pastry by duty.  Puff pastry was suitable for rims and upper crusts of pies, vol-au-vents, patties, rissoles, bouchees, cheese straws, and tarts.  But is never for lower crusts!!  Puff pastry is made exclusively with butter, according to Mrs. Farmer.   Plain paste, with a mix of lard and butter, was more suitable for lower crusts.  James Beard detailed various pastry in 9 pages of his American Cookery published in 1972.    Today, sadly, most people don’t make pies much less pie crust.   After reading these books, it is easy to see why.  The first few sentences of Mr. Beard’s introduction are flat out intimidating:

Flaky, tender pie crust must have a delicate balance of fat and flour and not too much liquid.  For this reason, measure the ingredients carefully. Too much flour can make a tough crust; too much fat, a greasy crumbly crust; and too much liquid will in turn require more flour and result in a tough crust.

But persevere!  Look at the Pillsbury ingredients.  There are no liquids.  What do you think you have there?  A tough, non-flaky mess.  That is your competition.   If your dough is “tough”, seriously, who’s going to know?  Few people expect a flaky crust anymore because most are used to the industrial stuff.  That’s the worse that happens.  You make a crust with no preservatives that is still better than what you can roll out of a package.  Fear not!

The recipe is super easy and if you have a food processor, it’s laughably easy.  You will scoff at yourself for ever being too intimidated to try.

My goal here is to get you to make a great crust.  Give it a go, so to speak.  You don’t have the time?   Is 10 minutes too long?  If you take out the time it takes to assemble the ingredients, it takes 2 minutes, tops to actually “make” the crust.  Then it rests.  Then you roll it out.  Done.  I make mine the day before I need to make the pie.

This recipe is adapted from Paula Deen’s Perfect Pie Crust.  It is a sweet, but not too sweet crust and very aptly named.

Perfect Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/4 cup lard, very cold (may substitute vegetable shortening)
12 tablespoons butter, very cold and cubed
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

Hand mixing directions:

Sift the flour, salt and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Work the lard into the flour mixture with your hands. Work quickly so that the lard doesn’t get too warm. Add the cold butter and quickly work into the mixture until the flour is crumbly, like coarse cornmeal. Add the ice water slowly until the mixture comes together, forming a dough. Gently shape the dough into a ball. Divide the ball into two, shape into disks, wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to use.

Food processor directions:

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the processing bowl, pulse until combined and aerated. Add the lard in pieces and pulse until incorporated. Add the cubes of butter a few at a time, pulsing between additions until the additions are incorporated. Slowly drizzle the water into the bowl and pulse. Stop adding water when the dough comes together in the bowl. Turn the dough out on a floured surface, gently shape into a ball, and divide the ball into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to use.

It’s really that easy.  Use for almost any recipe that requires a crust.  This recipe makes two 9 inch pie crusts.

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Not the course meal like texture already developing.

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