2010 is coming to a close, and I have to honestly say I loved my fledgling year of blogging. Thank you to my husband, Peter, for giving me an everlasting birthday gift. I hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I enjoyed creating the food.
Now to close out the year, the tradition I started with my daughter when she was 2 years-old, Christmas cookie baking and decorating, must be honored. And so we cut out, baked and decorated sugar, spice and gingerbread cookies. She invited some of her friends over to help and we had a messy, fun day of it. The gingerbread house tradition started only about 4 years ago, and we have decided we like our houses small.
We received an early Christmas gift from our daughter-- notification of early acceptance to her first-choice college. Lots of exciting stuff happening in the year 2011!
Adapted from the magazine, Christmas Cookies, 1995
Makes about 45-60 cookies or 1-2 houses depending on size.
Every year I make a new template, and this year I made an 8 X 8 cm cardboard template for the two sides; for the front and back, I used the 8 X 8 cm square cut-out plus 7.5 cm long sloping sides for the roof line; and for the two sides of the roof, 10 X 10 cm square pieces.
51/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark molasses
In a large bowl, combine flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Melt the shortening in a saucepan. Remove from heat and and stir in sugar and molasses. Stir in eggs. Transfer to a bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in half of the flour mixture. Beat or stir in remaining half of the flour mixture. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.
Lightly flour work surface and roll out the dough to about 5 mm thick. For houses, I like to make the dough thick for solid walls. For cookies, roll a bit thinner. Place the cut outs on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake at 190°C (375°F) for about 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove to wire racks to cool. Decorate with Royal Icing.
450g powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 cup warm water
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low at first to moisten the sugar, and then increase the speed to medium high and beat for about 6 minutes, until the icing is fluffy and glossy. Add more water to loosen if using for decorating cookies. Scoop out some icing to add food coloring. Gel food coloring create vibrant colors; Ateco brand has small squeeze bottles that are easy and less messy to use. I like to use disposable piping bags and metal decorating tips for decorating.