The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, December 18th 2016 edition. By: Blaise Doubman
Starting New Holiday Traditions…
I think that creating new Holiday traditions are just as important as keeping and reviving the old ones. My family has changed over the years and new traditions have been made just by simply having the old traditions merge on their own into something else. It seems that life in general has a way of changing things, transforming things into something new, with or without your readiness. I am the first to admit that I am not always the first to embrace changes but when it comes to the Holidays I am always ready and eager to find new traditions. Sometimes those new traditions work out, such as Christmas parades, helping the homeless, serving Christmas dinner as a pot-luck party; and sometimes they do not. That is all a part of the process though and each scenario creates a memory; and what is life without memories?
This Holiday season I am creating the tradition of adding “Gingerbread People” to my Christmas cookie assortment platters. I never really used to like gingerbread men because I found the cookies to be either too hard or too spicy – or both! I remember being younger and taking the gingerbread man and licking the white frosting off, leaving behind a naked cookie! Much to the dismay of my parents, that tradition was firmly stopped. Over the years I have tinkered with creating a recipe for a gingerbread cookie that was firm, but not hard and had flavor but was not spicy. With the recipe I am sharing here with you today, I believe my mission to be accomplished! Create gingerbread men with this recipe, women, dogs, cats, whatever your heart desires! Mixing the dough by hand is fun for kids, and adults, and if you do not have cookie cutters, never fear! Take the dough and read my tips below on how to transform this dough into “Gingersnaps”. Whatever way you desire, join me in this new Holiday tradition!
I hate to call these “gingerbread men” because what about the “gingerbread woman”? So – in all fairness I will call these cookies, “Gingerbread People”. I love decorating these with a simple white cookie icing that is basically a cup of confectioners’ sugar whisked together with about 4 tablespoons cold water. I place the icing into a squeeze bottle and once the cookies are cool – decorate! You can also decorate these with sprinkles or candy. These cookies are easily transformed into “Gingersnaps” by placing the dough into 1-inch balls and placing them on a cookie sheet. Lightly press down on the balls to flatten slightly. Sprinkle with sugar and bake accordingly.
2 cups white all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cubed
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees F and prepare two large baking sheets by lining each of them with parchment paper.
In a large bowl add the white all-purpose flour, ground ginger, baking soda and salt. Mix together with a wire whisk to ensure there are no lumps. This is essentially like “sifting” the ingredients together.
Add in the cubed unsalted butter and using clean hands, rub the mixture together between your thumbs and fingers until the mixture resembles fine sand.
Next, add in the light brown sugar and white granulated sugar. Stir together well. The mixture will look dry but incorporated. This is desirable.
In a small bowl add the large egg and pure maple syrup. Beat together slightly.
Add in the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until a dough begins to form. If your dough looks a little dry add a teaspoon of water at a time until the desired consistency is reached. You want a smooth, brown dough that is stiff but easily moldable.
Sprinkle a clean work surface with white all-purpose flour. Place the dough into the middle of the work surface and stretch the dough by pushing it away from you with the heels of your hands. Keep doing this method until your dough is smooth.
Once your dough is smooth, sprinkle a little more white all-purpose flour over your work station and, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about ¼ of an inch thick.
Using well floured cookie cutters, cut out your desired shapes. Carefully lift the shapes onto your parchment lined baking sheets and bake, one sheet at a time, for 14 minutes.
Once desired shapes are cut from the dough, roll the dough up, flour the work surface lightly, and continue working until all the dough is used.
Once the cookies have baked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely before decorating however you desire. Keep cookies at room temperature.
Ask and Answer: Karen Wirima, of Stamford, Connecticut would like to know the difference between using salted and unsalted butter in recipes. I always use unsalted butter in my baking recipes because that means I control how much salt goes into the finished product. I find it essential in baking, but not so much in cooking. Each stick of salted butter contains ¼ teaspoon of salt. I always tell people if they want to bake with salted butter, just subtract ¼ teaspoon from the recipe for each stick of salted butter being used. Keep that in mind for cooking too.