Have I told you this is my favorite time of year ? It's not the shopping or the presents. It's the memories. How the smell of gingerbread cookies baking in the oven brings back the laughter of my girlfriends . Roasting walnuts, and immediately I can see my mother in the kitchen rolling out her nut rolls. Icing sugar cookies and I can smell my Aunt Mary's fur coat, sitting next to her in the car while we headed to her favorite bakery in downtown Pittsburgh. Carefully filling my cold dough cakes with nuts or apricots or cherries-and my dad is along side me. He loved those and would eat all the cherry filled ones.
I especially miss my dad at Christmas. His last Christmas with us was one I will always treasure. We lived in Salt Lake and he lived in Tampa. We knew Christmas that year would be our last one with him. He was slowly losing his battle with cancer. I wanted to do something special-I must have baked about 40 different types of cookies that year to take with us to Florida. Hoping and praying that maybe through some miracle those cookies would keep him alive longer. Little did I know that what they would do would always keep his memory with me every time I entered my kitchen. You see while I was baking, J and I were filming a little family film. Since the entire family couldn't be together for all the fun preparation leading up to the holidays I thought a movie of it could bring those special moments to my dad. So J and I filmed me baking in the kitchen, both of us walking through the snow around Salt Lake and best of all a visit to Christmas Street in Salt Lake where all the houses were decked out in millions of lights. We laughed and talked like amateur tourist guides on the video. It was a goofy little movie-16mm, old fashioned, dark lighting,wobbly filming, but filled with love. And when we had our gala film opening in Tampa with the family I knew my dad loved it from his laughter and hugs. J and I still laugh today about a comment I made on film "I'm a messy cook but a good cook"-that cracked my dad up. And whenever I say it in the middle of a pan filled, flour dusted messy kitchen -there's my dad smiling ,shaking his head and laughing at me. Today is one of those days that I'm being a messy cook but a good cook.
Sample of gingerbread snowflakes I made when I was in Pastry School-I love the pastel and I think I'll decorate mine like this again.
I've pulled out all my favorite holiday issue magazines trying to decide what to bake. I'm starting with my favorite-my peppery gingerbread. I plan on making the cookies today, storing them away and icing them while we are at the beach. I know it's a tough life, being on vacation and icing cookies at the beach-but someone has to do it . This recipe is an adaptation of Brown Bag Ginger Cookies and Martha Stewart's Gingerbread Cookies-enjoy !
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter-room temperature
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs-room temperature
1 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing -for decorating
Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling
Edible glitter for decorating
1.Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
2.Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.
3.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut using your favorite cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
4.Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
5.Store between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days. Or layer in an airtight container and freeze for up to one month (no icing).
Ingredients for Royal Icing
1 pound powdered sugar
7 tablespoons egg white
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Food coloring (optional)
Sift powdered sugar well
Mix egg white and lemon juice together and add to powdered sugar
Whip on high speed for 6-7 minutes. The icing should be very white and fluffy
Adjust consistency with more egg white or water
Cover with a damp towel and plastic wrap
Use within 24 hours
Keep your icing at a firm consistency to pipe your outline before you "flood" your cookie. For excellent directions on how to decorate and flood your cookies check out this website: Cake Journal. Louise has a beautiful blog and tons of helpful tips and tutorials.
I'm off to roll my first batch of gingerbread cookies-I'll be making several batches over the next few weeks. Happy Holidays.
Love you dad