Ever since I was a little girl I have always been amazed by gingerbread men and the ways in which people can make them look so beautiful. Seriously, some people make the most wonderful looking gingerbread men and I always wanted to do the same. For some reason however, my family never seemed to make gingerbread men or houses for that matter. I remember I made my first gingerbread man about four years ago, I seriously feel as though part of my childhood was stolen from me from not being given the simple pleasure of learning how to decorate a gingerbread man/woman beautifully.
This year however, I decided I was going to change that. I was going to make gingerbread from scratch. I found a recipe that intrigued me, I headed out to the Bulk Barn and bought some gingerbread men cookie cutters then headed home to do some baking. I was really worried I wasn't going to have enough molasses, so I had to cut the recipe in half, there was a good amount of molasses plus a little bit extra (which I still added because molasses as you know is one of my favourite flavours). It didn't do anything to the batter, didn't make it too runny/sticky it was perfect.
As I was rolling these, I was overly delighted with how easy it was to roll, usually I have trouble using rolling pins, in the sense that I'm incredibly weak and my arms seem to experience that the most. This was easy though, it seriously felt as if I was rolling un-greasy butter, it was so smoothe. I started cutting out the gingerbread and I knew that my mission was going to quickly be accomplished.
I set the men into the oven, and the smell they gave off was so enticing. I took them out a few minutes before than stated because I wanted them to be soft, however, as they sat on the cooling rack they still hardened. To my delight they were just as perfect hard.
I started decorating the men, and wow, what hideous creatures I had created. However, I didn't have any other candies, licorice, chocolate or anything to decorate them with. Instead, I used my Hallowe'en icing tubes and decorated the men with beautiful purple hearts. It was such a simple design but they seriously looked SO adorable. I really am happy with my first experience, I might of done this all by myself but it was so much fun. It made me realize, as I usually realize when baking how much I really do love the whole experience. From the measuring, spooning, levelling, mixing, the actual baking, the cleaning and eventually to the tasting and grinning. It calms me and puts me at ease. It allows me to relax, think about my day, philosophize in my head and just be completely content with my life.
I love Christmas time because it gives me a good excuse to bake which allows me to experience the prior on a regular basis. Do you have something that gives you this simple pleasure as well?
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cup unsulphured molasses (To prevent the molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, spray with a non stick vegetable spray.)
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.
Store in an airtight container.
Candy Cane Biscotti
Recipe taken from here
Last year when I made biscotti I had mentioned that I am not the biggest fan of biscotti, I mean, I know it should be IN my blood to like it, but it's just, it's hard. I've made exceptions though with certain biscotti i.e. the matcha biscotti with crystallized ginger, now those were amazing but it incorporated flavours I really love and I reduced the cooking time a bit to make them a little bit softer. I'm not a coffee drinker, and when I drink tea or milk I don't like to dunk my cookies in my drinks. I don't even like to eat my cereal with milk. Mushy food makes me gag, if I see it I even gag, so needless to say that's why I don't dunk. With that being said why would I choose to eat an incredibly hard tooth-breaking cookie? Well I wouldn't. Definitely not over some shortbread, or my grandmothers peanut brittle, or my mothers date square.
I decided however, that I was really in the mood to make some biscotti, I wanted to feel "more" Italian. I mean, I don't really feel Italian, the only thing I could classify myself as being Italian is the fact that I like to cook for people. I don't have long hair, I don't eat pasta, I don't drink espresso then shovel down biscotti's, I don't speak the language, I don't use my hands when I speak, etc, etc... I chose to make these biscotti however because Christmas means peppermint, and I loooove candy cane's. I had some on hand so I figured why not. These were surprisingly awesome. Even though they were rock hard the flavour was so good that I didn't care how hard they were. These are definitely a must-make. I decided to omit the white chocolate and extra candy cane on top and they were still just as delicious!
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes
- 14 ounces fine quality white chocolate, melted
- Extra crushed candy canes to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 350˚.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined – stir in crushed candy.
Evenly divide dough into 4 pieces on a lightly floured surface. Shape each piece into 9″ x 1 1/2″ round log. Place logs 3 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake until tops are cracked and ends just start to turn light brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 325. Cool logs 10 minutes on cookie sheet.
Cut each log diagonally into 1/2″ slices with sharp serrated knife. (Discard ends, if you want.) Arrange pieces standing up back onto the baking sheet.
Bake until cookies are light golden brown and crisp on both sides, about 12 to 15 minutes. The centers may still be a little soft, but will firm up as they cool. Place onto cool rack and cool completely.
Have fun :)