Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies are perhaps the most traditional of all Christmas cookies except for maybe sugar cookies. Everyone has a recipe for gingerbread cookies. Everyone loves a gingerbread boy. Well, everyone except for my dad. He has a long and deep-seated dislike for any type of ginger cookie. It goes back to when his youngest brother was being born in their house. Dad was shoved out the front door and told to go to school. He was only given a box of gingersnaps for his lunch! He never ate ginger snaps or any other type of ginger or spice cookie again. That was over 80 years ago as my dad is now 88 years of age and his brother just turned 82! My dad still won't touch a ginger cookie, not even my homemade yummy gingerbread ones.

No matter, the rest of my family loves my gingerbread cookies. In fact, I could probably say without fear of retribution that my gingerbread cookies are my sister's favorite cookies of all time. She told me that recently so I can say it with confidence!

I have been making these cookies since I was about 10 or 11 years old. I ripped the recipe out of a Christmas issue of Ladies Home Journal, McCall's or Woman's Day. I have no idea what magazine it was but it sure turned out to be a tried and true recipe. I can't say that I haven't had any problems with it because I have definitely had some batches get tossed in the trash. I am fairly sure that it was because I didn't follow the recipe to the letter those times. I didn't really blend the flour in well enough after each addition of flour to the batter. I will also suggest that you let the eggs come to room temperature before you use them in this recipe. I'm not sure if that makes a difference but I don't want to take a chance. When I first started making these cookies, I would make a batch royal icing and decorated the cookies. I no longer bother with the icing because my family doesn't care for it. You can easily find a royal icing recipe on the Internet if you want to decorate these cookies. They taste great either way.

A few more thoughts before I post the recipe: (1) try baking a small batch to make sure that 8 minutes isn't too long to bake the cookies. My first batch got a bit overcooked; (2) I'm not sure what the sifting does for the batter but I ALWAYS sift the flour and spices just to be on the safe side; (3) I really can't tell you how many cookies this batch makes because I use so many different sized cookie cutters; (4) please make sure that your baking soda and spices are fresh for this recipe! and (5) my family prefers these cookies to be thick and soft rather than thin and crunchy (your preference).

Gingerbread Cookies

5-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices onto wax paper.

2. Beat vegetable shortening with sugar until fluffy-light in a large bowl; beat in molasses, egg and vanilla.

3. Stir in flour mixture, a third at a time, blending very well after each addition, to make a soft dough. Wrap dough in foil and chill 4 hours or overnight.

4. Roll out dough, one quarter at a time, to a 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured pastry board. Cut with 3-inch cookie cutters.

5. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

6. Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) 8 minutes or until cookies are firm but not too dark. Remove to wire racks with spatula; cool. Decorate if desired.

Merry Christmas!

The Creative Cook

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chocolate Ribbon Cookies

Yes, I'm back! I have been away too long. My excuses are many. I won't bore you with them all but I was sick again with strep throat. Between being sick so much and all the preparations for Christmas, I just couldn't find the time to post here. I am sorry. But I am here to tell you that these Chocolate Ribbon Cookies are absolutely awesome. I made a double batch for a cookie exchange on Monday. Having never made them before, I was a bit nervous about making them. I had no reason to fear. I am so glad that there were some extras that Bill and I could taste-test. They didn't come out as perfectly striped as the one in the photo on the Better Homes and Gardens website which is where I got the recipe, of course! But, no matter, they taste wonderful. I can't wait to bring them to the cookie exchange and I can't wait to bring them to our Christmas get-together with my family.

Just a few thoughts on the baking process: I had to bake the cookies longer than 10 minutes. I would say that I baked the cookies at least 14 minutes so you may want to experiment with how your oven works. Shaping and cutting the cookies was easier than I expected it to be. The directions say to cut the dough crosswise into thirds and then cut into 1/4 inch thick slices but I think they neglected to mention that you need to cut each 1/3 in half again otherwise you won't get nearly the 54 cookies that the recipe promises to deliver. With my two batches of cookies, I wound up with 105 cookies which isn't too bad. I chose this recipe because it makes a LARGE batch of cookies rather than several small ones. I was just dumb luck that I found this recipe and tried it for the cookie exchange.

Here is the recipe that I want to share with you:

Chocolate Ribbon Cookies

Prep: 30 min. Bake: 10 min.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate pieces, melted and cooled
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces
1/4 teaspoon rum flavoring


In a mixing bowl beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking soda, and salt; beat until combined. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour.

Divide dough in half. Knead the melted chocolate and nuts into half of the dough. Knead the miniature chocolate pieces and rum flavoring into the other half of dough. Divide each portion of dough in half.

To shape dough, line the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with waxed paper or clear plastic wrap. Press half of the chocolate dough evenly in pan. Top with half of the vanilla dough, the remaining chocolate dough, and the remaining vanilla dough, pressing each layer firmly and evenly over the preceding layer.

Invert pan to remove dough. Peel off waxed paper or plastic wrap. Cut dough crosswise into thirds. Slice each third crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake cookies in a 375 degree F. oven about 10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool. Makes about 54 cookies.

Make-Ahead Tip: Prepare and shape dough; Transfer to plastic freezer bag; seal, label, and freeze up to 1 month. Let dough thaw at room temperature for 2 hours; slice and bake as above. Or bake cookies; cool. Transfer to freezer container; seal, label, and freeze up to 1 month.

The Creative Cook