Christmas Cookies I: Gingerbread Cookies

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I love cookies.  They are maybe my favorite dessert.  Except for ice cream.  Oh, and cookie dough ice cream = heaven.  So, this time of year, I acutally let myself bake lots and lots of cookies for the holidays, and I give most of them away.  I do freeze some of the dough to bake on Christmas Eve (for Santa, obviously), but most cookies go to friends, coworkers, or (they used to go to) relatives (when they lived closer).

My favorite cookie?  Easy.  It’s a gingerbread cookie.  There is a bakery in my hometown of Cartersville, Georgia- and it is, to this day, my favorite bakery in, perhaps, the entire world.  It’s Agan’s Bakery- and they make the BEST gingerbread cookies!!  I have had the worst time replicating their cookies, but at long, long last- I’ve come very, very close.  I finally have a gingerbread cookie recipe I am happy with!!!

I did reference a recipe for the structure of the cookies, but surely by now you must know I don’t ever follow recipes exactly…they’re more like suggestions.  Well, this one’s no different!  First, in almost every cookie recipe I made, I browned my butter.  This concentrates the flavor of the butter without having to add extra butter.  It’s very easy: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes; it should start to turn a golden brown, and will smell slightly nutty.  Let it cool to about room temp before mixing it in your dough, though (don’t wanna cook the egg too soon!).

These gingerbread cookies have such an incredible flavor (not to mention making the house smell divine!!). The secret to the incredible flavor: minced ginger, rather than ground!!  I also used blackstrap molasses, since it’s what I have on hand, but I think it contributed more to the flavor of the cookies than regular molasses.  The addition of nutmeg may or may not make any difference, but I also had that on hand and love nutmeg.  Here’s the recipe I referenced, and follows my personal recipe with changes.

Gingerbread Cookies
yeild: a lot, like maybe 3 dozen

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened and browned
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons fresh, minced ginger (I used the kind that’s pre-minced and jarred)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl (or your mixer),  add cooled butter and sugar; mix until blended.  Add egg and blend until fluffy and light.  Add water, molasses, and vanilla; combine.  Stir in ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.  Add salt and baking soda; mix thoroughly.  Gradually add the flour (may need to switch to a dough hook); you may need less than stated amount.  You want the dough to be tender, but not sticky.  Allow the dough to chill overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Divide the dough in half (makes it easier to roll out).  Using a flat surface and rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/3 – 1/2″ thickness (yes, they are thick- the thicker you roll them, the softer they will be), and cut out into desired shapes.  Transfer your shapes to a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 10 minutes (8 for softer, but make sure they’re done).  Cool on a wire cooling rack completely before decorating.

*Usually I would decorate with a chocolate frosting, but having no powdered sugar, and being incredibly stubborn, I decorated with melted dark chocolate. It was easy and delicious!  I piped it onto the gingerbread men (loaded it into a freezer ziplock and cut off the very tip of the corner) and gave them faces and buttons.  

They were wonderful and soft and flavorful!   

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