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quinta-feira, 30 de dezembro de 2010

Christmas Cookies

Recipe of the Week

Gingerbread Men

Christmas baking wouldn't be complete without a batch of these cute Gingerbread Men. They are fragrant with ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; the amount of which can be adjusted to suit your own individual taste. If you like your Gingerbread Men on the soft side, bake them a little less than the recipe states as the longer they bake the harder they will become. There are a few ways to decorate your Gingerbread Men; one is to press raisins into the dough before baking, or you can frost the baked and cooled cookies with confectioners' frosting. You can also use Gingerbread Men as decorations for your Christmas tree or as gift tags. To do this, pierce a hole in the top of each unbaked cookie using a straw or end of a wooden skewer. Bake the cookies and then thread a pretty ribbon through the hole and hang on your tree. 
In England and North America, we usually make our gingerbread with treacle or molasses. Ground ginger and cinnamon are almost always present, with ground cloves placing a distant third, if used at all. There are two types of molasses generally used in making gingerbread: light and dark. Light molasses, used in this recipe, comes from the first boiling of the sugar syrup and is lighter in flavor and color than the dark molasses. Dark molasses comes from the second boiling and is darker in color with a more robust flavor.  Molasses is usually labeled as "sulphured" or "unsulphured" depending on whether sulphur was used in the processing. The unsulphured molasses is lighter in color and tends to have a nicer flavor. Molasses is used in baked goods to add color, moistness and flavor.
Gingerbread Men: In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. 
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.
Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside while you roll out the dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Use a gingerbread cutter to cut out the cookies.  With an offset spatula lift the cut out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart. If you are hanging the cookies or using as gift tags, make a hole at the top of the cookies with a straw or end of a wooden skewer.
Bake for about 8 - 12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Small ones will take about 8 minutes, larger cookies will take about 12 minutes. They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown. 
Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minutes. When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
If desired, you can press raisins, currants, or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Otherwise, confectioners frosting can be used to decorate the cookies. You can also use the icing as a glue to attach candies, raisins, and sprinkles.
Confectioners Frosting: In an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth and well blended.  Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).  Add a little more milk if too dry. Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and decorate the gingerbread men as desired.
Tint portions of frosting with desired food color (I use the paste food coloring that is available at cake decorating stores and party stores).
Makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter used.
Store in an airtight container.

Gingerbread Men:

3 cups (390 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup (160 ml) unsulphured molasses (To prevent molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, first spray the cup with a non stick vegetable spray.)
Confectioners Frosting:
2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk or light cream
Assorted food colors (if desired)

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