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to make gingerbread cookies
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½ lb. salted butter (2 sticks), softened
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
2 Tbsp. hot water
3 ½ cups flour, plus more for dusting work surface
3 tsps. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar and molasses, mixing until
smooth and creamy. Unless you're a total masochist, make sure the butter
is good and soft, and use an electric mixer.
In a small bowl, mix the baking soda and hot water into a paste; add to
the butter-sugar mix and combine well.
Gradually add the flour cup by cup, letting the mixer incorporate each
cup of flour into the dough before adding more. When all the flour has
been added, sprinkle in the ginger and cinnamon, and mix well.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth. If the
dough feels very sticky, add some more flour. Divide the dough into 3
portions; flatten each portion into a disk, wrap in plastic, and
refrigerate at least 3 hours. I've left the dough in this state for 5
days before, and the dough was still fine; you can also freeze the dough
if you're not planning to use it for a good long while.
When you're ready to bake up those cookies, preheat the oven to 350F.
Pull out one section of the dough from the fridge, and let it warm up
for 5-10 minutes or so.
Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until it's about 1/8"
thick. As you're rolling, you'll want to periodically pick up the dough,
reflour the surface and set the dough down for more rolling -- this
should prevent the dough from sticking.
Pull out your cookie cutters -- gingerbread men are classics, but you
can use whatever shapes suit your fancy. Cut out your shapes, and place
them on an ungreased cookie sheet. You can put the cookies fairly close
together, as the cookies will not expand all that much when cooking. The
dough scraps can be kneaded together and rolled out again.
Bake for 6 minutes, and remove from the oven. (While the cookies are
doing their thing in the oven, take out another batch of dough from the
fridge to let it warm up.) When the timer goes off, pull out the
cookies. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for another minute or two,
then carefully transfer them to a wire rack. Repeat steps 6-8 until
you've used up all the dough.
When the cookies are cooled, get decorating. The easiest icing is just
confectioner's sugar with a bit of water (you can also use orange juice
or milk) mixed in to form a paste; this can be dyed with food coloring
(Wilton's gel concentrates are best) or left white, then piped on or
painted with cheap brushes. I like to make royal
icing, which uses a little bit of powdered pasteurized egg white
to help the icing harden to a nice, smooth finish. Once your cookies are
decorated, store them in a covered container.
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