The air is filled with culinary smells of Christmas — pine needles, crispy winter air, and warm spices baking in delicious cookies. A time-honored tradition, gingerbread is one of our all-time favorite holiday cookies. This year, try out this recipe from ICE Director of Pastry & Baking Nick Malgieri. He advises resisting the urge to add more flour to this soft dough — better to have patience and chill it until it may be easily rolled. The bonus is delicate and tender cookies. And then, the scraps re-roll perfectly, making cookies just as tender as the first ones.
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar, light or dark
2 large eggs
2/3 cup molasses, unsulphured or robust
1 pound (1 box) confectioners’ sugar
3 large egg whites
1 drop lemon juice or white vinegar
Raisins, currants, chopped nuts, colored sugar and other solid decorations
For the dough combine flour, spices, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl and stir well to mix.
Beat butter and sugar by machine and beat in eggs, one at a time. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth. Beat in half the flour mixture, then stop and scrape bowl and beater(s). Beat in molasses, scrape again and beat in remaining flour mixture, just until combined.
Divide dough into several pieces and press each piece into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick between two sheets of plastic wrap. Chill the dough at least one hour or until firm.
Preheat oven to 350ºF and line three or four cookie sheets with parchment or foil. Roll dough, one piece at a time, on floured surface, just to make flat and even, but not much thinner. Cut dough with floured cutters and arrange on pans an inch or two apart, to make room for expansion during baking. Repeat with remaining dough. Re-roll scraps immediately, or press together, chill and re-roll later.
Bake cookies about 10 minutes, until firm. Cool on pans.
For the icing, combine sugar and egg white in mixing bowl and beat by machine until combined. Add lemon juice and continue beating until fluffy. Divide icing into several small bowls and add coloring. Keep plastic wrap pressed against surface of icing to prevent a crust from forming. Use a paper cone or the snipped end of a plastic bag to pipe icing on cookies.
Hazelnut Gingerbread Cookies — Grind 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts in food processor and add to dough with flour.