Thursday, December 10, 2015

Candy Critic Dessert Club – Something For The Holidays - Gingerbread Snowmen

What says happy holidays better than a plate full of gingerbread cookies?  These might be the only cookies that are exclusive to this holiday.  Shortbread cookies, the other holiday cookie, are also fairly popular at other times of the year, but you don't really see gingerbread in the summer, spring, or fall.  When I first thought about making these cookies, I figured that I would have a simple batter cookie recipe, with a few extra spices added in, I was wrong.

The ingredients:

1 Cup of brown sugar (Granulated worked for me)
1/3 Cup vegetable shortening
1 and 1/2 cups of molasses (dark for a richer cookie, light for a lighter tasting cookie)
2/3 cups of cold water
7 cups of Flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons half-and-half
1 drop blue food colouring
The first things you have to do is blend the brown sugar, shortening, molasses and water together.  I thought it would be "faster" to use a beater to do this. I thought that the shortening would blend better with the other ingredients using electric beaters, I made a horrible mistake.  The water and molasses blend gives you watery molasses, and the minute my beaters were turned on in this mix, I coated everything within a 5 foot radius with small brown spots of molasses. Even after I tried to continue to blend this mixture, I found that the shortening didn't really "blend" at all, but it kind of turned into very small clumps of vegetable fat floating in brown liquid.  So I would just suggest using a spoon and a little patience.

After these ingredients are fairly well blended, add one cup of flour and the baking soda, and mix until incorporated (using a spoon is fine).  Then add the ginger and one cup of flour, and mix until incorporated.  Then add the allspice and one cup of flour and mix until incorporated. Then add the cinnamon and one cup of flour and mix until incorporated. Add the ground cloves and one cup of flour and mix until incorporated. And you guessed it, add the salt and one cup of flour and mix until incorporated.  Finally gradually add the rest of the flour.  This system allow each ingredient to be mixed in fairly well.  The last bit of flour might be easier to mix in with your fingers instead of a spoon.
Take your very large lump of gingerbread cookie dough and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours.  After it's rested in the refrigerator, take it out and decide how many cookies you want.  For me, this makes at least two batches of cookies, so you can return half of the cookie dough to the refrigerator or freezer for future use.  On a flowered surface knead the dough you have out a little, then roll it flat, about 1/4 of an inch.

To cut out the snowmen shape, Allison came up with the brilliant idea of using a glass, and several drink measuring tools.  We cut out each shape using these glass and drink measures, and smooshed the circles together.  It made for slightly squashed snowmen, but that made them more realistic.  Put your snowmen on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.
Let the cookies cool for at least 30 minutes, and while they're cooling you can make the icing.  This icing is very simple to make.  Take the powdered sugar, vanilla, and half and half, and mix in a bowl.  You can add a little extra cream if you find the icing to be a little too thick.  Add the one drop of blue food colouring to give the white a slightly frosty feel, and stir it all up.
When the cookies are cool, use a piping bag and decorate your cookies.

This recipe worked really well for us until one point, the icing stage.  I've studied art for many years, I've worked on award winning projects, shown my work in galleries all over the world, but I can't for the life of me control a piping bag.  Our snowmen looked pretty sad.  I think many of the people who ate our cookies found the slightly lame snowmen to be childish and cute, I was just frustrated.  If anybody has tips on how to use a piping bag, I'm all ears.
The other thing to note is that this is not an easy recipe.  Most cookie recipes I've done take less than an hour to prepare, these took about 5 with all of the cooling stages.  The dough is also pretty hard to work with, so weak arms don't work in your favour.  The results however were worth the work, and Allison and I bonded a little more going through the process, that's what the holidays are all about.


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