Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to Bake Ginger Cookies

Homemade and Delicious
Ginger cookies baking in the oven is the very essence of Grandma's kitchen. Warm, tender, fragrant bites of holiday magic welcome you the moment you step through the door. Roll out the dough and cut them into shapes; make gingerbread men with currant eyes and icing smiles; sprinkle little rounds with sugar that sparkles like snow.
However you make them, they are delicious and keep extremely well. This is good news for those of us who like to make things ahead of time.
Can you substitute fresh for dried?
Well, maybe sometimes. If your recipe calls for fresh ginger, then the answer is no. Fresh ginger has a bite and flavour that is completely missing in dried ginger. On the other hand, if your recipe calls for dry ginger powder, you can use fresh as long as you are prepared for the zing! If the recipe calls for a teaspoon of dry powder, about 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger can be used instead but should be added to the creamed mixture and whipped.
If you use fresh ginger, be prepared for cookies that bite back!
Grandma's notebook has a couple of recipes for ginger cookies with little notes beside them indicating she was very pleased with the results so here they are just as she wrote them.
Remember: For best results, use beaters only for creaming the sugar and fat. Once you add dry ingredients, mix by hand or your cookies will be tough as nails. Bake cookies in the middle position in your oven, one tray at a time.
I wish I could take credit for the amazing job decorating these gingerbread people but it goes to Kakisky, a very talented writer, photographer and designer from Seattle.
I wish I could take credit for the amazing job decorating these gingerbread people but it goes to Kakisky, a very talented writer, photographer and designer from Seattle.

Source: Kakisky

Ginger Cookies - Mrs. Bastedo's

As always, I am copying directly from her notes with explanations below the recipe.
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup brown sugar (large)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • Flour to roll
That's all she said in her notebook because she assumes the rest is just common sense.

Explanation and Method:

Preheat oven to 350 F.
The large cup of brown sugar means be generous with measuring. Use baking molasses (sometimes called Fancy) rather than cooking or blackstrap unless you like a strong molasses flavour. Cooking molasses will make them taste a bit like those Halloween candies and are delicious but not for those who don't like any molasses flavour. Blackstrap would be overpowering. Also, I like to add a tablespoon of pure vanilla extract to the creamed mixture but that's optional. The teaspoon of ginger means a small spoon from your kitchen drawer and rounded as much as the spoon is rounded so it's a lot more than a level measured teaspoon. I just add until it tastes good! A bit of lemon or orange zest is nice, too.
Melt the butter. Add sugar and cream together. Add molasses and continue to beat. Add eggs and beat the mixture until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, measure 1 cup of flour and add a teaspoon of ginger powder and a teaspoon of baking soda. If you used unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Add to creamed mixture and blend together by hand with a wooden spoon. Add more flour a little at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky. You might use 6-1/2 to 7 cups of flour. You can divide the dough now if you like. I divide mine into 4 balls and flatten them to chill.
Lightly sprinkle a little flour on the counter and on your rolling pin. I often roll on paper or plastic wrap so I can peel them off easier. Roll out the dough one part at a time about 1/8 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour. Over-rolling will toughen the dough so cut as many cookies as possible from the first rolling. Gather the bits you have left after cutting, press together and roll again using as little flour as possible. Too little flour and the cookies will spread too much and lose their shape, too much and they will be tough. Try one pan and then see how they turn out. Make adjustments as necessary.
For cookies, the oven rack should always be in the middle position. Bake about 5-7 minutes on a greased or non-stick cookie sheet until the cookies are light brown. Watch them closely! Cool and decorate.
Hint: The dough mellows in flavour as it chills so I leave mine overnight. When making round cookies (rather than gingerbread men) I use a quick icing made with 2 tablespoons orange juice, a teaspoon of vanilla, a dash of cream, and icing sugar until it resembles a stirred yogurt. Then add fresh, finely grated ginger (a teaspoon or two) and lemon zest to taste. Spread on warm cookies for a translucent look or on cooled cookies. Let dry. It's icing with zing!

Ginger cookies without eggs

Ginger Cookies without eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup hot shortening
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Dissolve a small teaspoon soda in boiling water. (Very good & keep well)

Explanation and Method:

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Cream the sugar in the hot shortening. Yes, hot. You want the sugar to melt. Add molasses and beat. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water and add to creamed mixture. Beat until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine a cup of flour with the dried ginger and salt. Add to creamed mixture and combine well with a wooden spoon.
Add more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. You may use around 2-1/2 cups or so of flour in total. You can roll out as above, or you can form into rolls, wrap and chill overnight. Next day, slice them and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 8-10 minutes or until light brown.
Note: feel free to experiment with spices. You can add a tablespoon of ginger powder, a teaspoon of cinnamon and vanilla if you wish. Add wet to wet and dry to dry (vanilla to creamed mixture and spices to flour).

Delicious Gingerbread Icing

This is my favourite icing for gingerbread cookies of any kind and it is so easy even the littlest cooks can help.
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (use an organic orange)
  • A small splash of vanilla gives it a warm note but is optional
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons of cream or enough to thin to consistency that can be easily piped through a bag
Add orange zest to sugar and mix in a tablespoon of cream. Whip. Add vanilla if using. Thin to the consistency you want by adding more cream a drop at a time. If you make it too thin, just add a bit more sugar and whip. Pipe through a pastry bag for stunning results or just use a freezer bag and cut a tiny hole in one corner to make gingerbread buttons, eyes, hair and big smiles!

Warning: Even plain gingerbreads tend to disappeear

Make sure the lid is on tight. You just never know when they will disappear...
Make sure the lid is on tight. You just never know when they will disappear.

More Gingerbread Molds

Wilton Bite Size Gingerbread 9 CavityWilton Bite Size Gingerbread 9 Cavity
Little bites of happiness
Amazon Price: $10.00
List Price: $12.99
Kitchen Supply Gingerbread House MoldKitchen Supply Gingerbread House Mold
Everything you need to build your gingerbread house - even the people!
Amazon Price: $25.99
List Price: $27.99
Wilton Gingerbread Boy Comfort Grip Cookie CutterWilton Gingerbread Boy Comfort Grip Cookie Cutter
Comfort grip makes it easy to create dozens of cookies
Amazon Price: $1.99
List Price: $2.99

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