Halloween and Gingerbread
Most people save gingerbread cookies for Christmas and boy are people missing out. I know gingerbread isn't everyone's favorite but if you try this recipe, I believe you will change your mind. There are a lot of bad gingerbread recipes out there. I even came across one a few years ago that didn't have any ginger in it...imagine that. Chuckling to myself I passed that recipe up and kept searching. Never finding that perfect balance of flavors I set out to make my own recipe. Safe to say that year I went through a lot of molasses. So this recipe that I am so excited to share with you. Took me a long time to figure out and some very specific ingredients. When I say specific I mean try not to substitute too much. Remember that recipe that I chuckled at well that recipe inspired me. I don't use ginger in the traditional sense of ginger. I use my trusty pumpkin pie spice from whole foods or target. The archer farms and 365 brand have the most vibrant flavors of ginger, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon. It really cuts down on the ingredients to buy. Trust me when I say you will truly get a gingerbread cookie using really high quality pumpkin pie spice.
Now I know there will be those decorating divas that will be snickering at my decorating skills but Honey if you saw the cookies that came before these you would understand. It has taken me years to even come close to a professional looking cookie. Something that the family didn't think a toddler decorated. Im not a huge royal icing fan but I knew I wanted to decorate these guys to the hilt without making them overly sweet or overly hard. If I would of taken pictures the night I made them you would of seen the beautiful shine and smoothness that the frosting made. I didn't start making these cookies till early evening so by the time I finished the sun was no where to be seen and definitely no light to take photos. Im glad I waited. I want to represent what the cookies really looked like.
For this post Im going to link some places to buy the ingredients and tools I used. Ingredients really do matter. Investing in tools that you will use year after year is makes you a smart cookie. Make sure to scroll through and click for more info.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder – fresher the better
¾ teaspoon baking soda – fresher the better
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons salted butter – or French butter softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons of pure real maple syrup
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl or in a stand mixer beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy, medium speed should do. Then add egg and mix completely. Finally add vanilla, molasses, maple syrup. Make sure to scrape down the sides and mix thoroughly.
3. With the mixer on low speed slowly stir in dry ingredients in batches. Making sure to mix thoroughly. The dough might be a little dry at this point. Turn off the mixer and turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper. The dough should be mostly in a ball by this point. If its not start to grab the excess and mush into the big ball. If you are finding your dough a little dry add a teaspoon of maple syrup. (Happens sometimes in cold kitchens)
4. Once your ball is fully formed and smooth. Divide into two sections and wrap in parchment paper. Place in fridge for 1 hour. Then let sit on countertop for another hour. You can leave dough in the fridge no longer than 2 days. (Starts to dry up the dough)
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place racks in the center of the oven and evenly spaced below it. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
6. Grab first section of dough and roll out on parchment paper with a little extra flour dusting for good measure. Thickness of cookie is your preference. I like a thicker softer cookie so I do about a quarter inch thickness. Remember the cookies will rise in the oven. Now start to cut out cookies with desired cookie cutters. Once you have used up all the space on this dough. Remove cookies and place on cookie sheet. Gather the scraps form a ball and start again. Continue this till all dough has been used. I like to place the cookies in the oven right before I form the scrap ball to roll out again. I find that these cookies don’t take long to cook and makes time fly by.
7. Bake cookies for 10 minutes and immediately remove and set on cooling racks.
As for decorating this part is really up to you. I included what decorations I used. As for my frosting I used a recipe I really like from I am Baker. Please check out the site. This recipe is a non egg white, non meringue powder recipe. It did give me a beautiful shine though it chalked up a bit the next day. I blame the intense humidity we are having with the constant flux of temperature due to the air conditioning. *Note I only used one consistency of icing to do the entire cookie. I didn't thin it out to "flood". Please feel free to use your favorite royal icing recipe. I do have to say adding the fresh lemon juice really added a great flavor to the icing.
For the coloring I made one batch of black, green, orange, and white. I didn't have green so I mixed it. See below.
For Frankenstein - I used the black icing gel - less than 1/4 teaspoon for the entire batch of black and it stayed black. It's the only color that never faded on me. For green I mixed 1 drop of teal and 2 drops of orange from the set I linked up above. For his bolts I used black icing and black sanding sugar.
1. I started by piping the outline of the shape of his head leaving out his bolts. Set aside and let dry for about 10 minutes. I used this time to pipe the other shapes.
2. Flood the head with the green icing again. Using a toothpick to spread the icing evenly. It really works well. Not a lot of icing is needed for this. I piped a spiral into the middle and spread it from them. Let dry.
3. Pipe outline of his hair, then flood. I did this all in one step. Then pipe scar, mouth, and any other details except for the eyes. Let dry another 15 minutes should do.
4. Pipe eyes using white icing, the pipe black dots on the white parts to form iris. Using the black icing finally outline the bolts and flood with toothpick help. Quickly sprinkle sanding sugar over the bolt. Shake extra sugar off. Set aside to dry.
For Jack-O-Lantern or Pumpkin - I used the orange gel for this and the green I made for frankenstein.
1. I break up the pumpkin border into three separate oblong shapes. Piping the border of each and then let it dry.
2. Flood the shapes using a new toothpick. Making sure to let it dry for at least 15 minutes before moving to the next step.
3. Pipe the eyes, nose, mouth and let dry.
4 . Finally pipe the stem and leaf design and then flood.
For Bat - I used the black sanding sugar and black icing for this cookie.
1. Pipe the boarder of the bat and then set aside and let dry.
2. Flood the bat and use the toothpick to get into the edges of the wings.
3. Immediately cover with sanding sugar. Tip : place cookie in a large flat bowl and then shake sugar over it. This way you can easily collect the unused sugar after dusting the bat off or any that didn't hit the cookie period. Set aside to dry.
4. Using the white icing pipe white dots then using the black icing pipe black irises. Let dry.
I let the cookies dry overnight on a cooling rack placed on cookie sheets. I cover them with foil carefully not letting the foil touch the tops of the cookies. Are stackable the next day. No smashed icing or smeared bats here.