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