One of my most vivid holiday memories from childhood is decorating cookies. Now, just so you understand, decorating cookies was an epic event at our household. With 6 kids, all of whom needed to bring cookies to various events, my mom made a boatload of cut-out cookies - we're talking enough cookies to completely cover both the dining room and kitchen tables (both of which seat 8). It must have been at least 20 dozen.
After all that baking, my mom would gather the kids around the kitchen table with giant bowls of icing, sprinkles, and shredded coconut, and we would commence decorating all of those cookies. It would take several hours to complete, especially when each reindeer cookie had to have a red sprinkle on the nose, and every tree cookie had to have ornaments frosted on it. My personal favorite technique was using shredded coconut with white icing for Santa's beard.
My mom was so hilarious and awesome - we were not allowed to lick anything, and naturally we'd forget, so she was constantly supervising, sending us to wash our hands and replacing our frosting knives anytime we "sampled." I can just see her - hands on hips, laughing at our ridiculous designs - and us - crawling over each other to grab the blue frosting, or crawling under the table to head for the bathroom to wash our hands (yet again).
Naturally, at some point, we grew up and moved out, and mom grew tired of making all of those cookies by herself, and I gladly picked up the tradition baton. I'll say this much - cookies, especially gingerbread men , become rated R pretty quickly when friends, rather than children, are in charge of decorating. ANYhoo - here's my version of gingerbread cut-out cookies (adapted from a Good Housekeeping recipe):
Note: The molasses and ginger are the stars of this recipe, so don't skimp on those ingredients.
Yield: 6-1/2 dozen
Prep: 20 min. + chilling time (2 hours)
Bake: 10 min./batch
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup dark molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
Frosting or confectioners' sugar, optional
In a large bowl, cream butter, vanilla, and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with water, beating well after each addition. Wrap and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours or until easy to handle.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with 2-1/2-in. cookie cutters dipped in flour. Place 1 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Refrigerate pan for 10 minutes.
Remove pan from refrigerator and bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool. Frost or dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.
[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]