52 Weeks of Baking: Gingerbread
CasaSugar and I recently got into a debate over who could make the best gingerbread house. I hadn't actually made one from scratch ever, and was about 10 years old when I last put one together. However neither of these things stopped me from talking up how great my house would be. I had the best plans and great ideas; only problem was I didn't have a recipe and didn't know where to begin. So I did some research, rolled up my sleeves, and started mixing. The recipe I found — from Bon Appétit — actually makes way more gingerbread than necessary for one house. With all the leftover dough I decided to make a few gingerbread men. Only problem was, I didn't actually have a gingerbread-man cutter. So I used a knife and freestyled.
The end result was a gingerbread man with one arm larger than the other. I fixed that problem by piping on an icing cast. His neck also received a hairline fracture because I moved it to the cooling rack before it was ready. I covered this up by piping a little tie on him. And since he had a tie, I felt he needed a cellphone, too. No matter what you end up doing, just have a good time. I'm going to share details on my house later this week, and now I'm off to invest in a good gingerbread-man cookie cutter!
To get the gingerbread recipe I used,
6 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup robust (dark) molasses
4 large egg whites
7 to 7 1/2 cups powdered white sugar
- Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cardamom into medium bowl.
- Using electric mixer, beat shortening in large bowl until fluffy.
- Add sugar and beat to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add molasses and beat on high speed until well blended.
- Add dry ingredients in 4 additions, beating at low speed until dough forms.
- Divide dough into 6 equal pieces [this is perfect for a house, and a good idea for cookies]. Flatten each piece into rectangle. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, at least 6 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
- When dough is ready, preheat oven to 350°F.
- Roll out 1 dough piece (keep remaining dough refrigerated) between two 15-inch-long sheets of parchment to scant 1/4-inch rectangle, turning over dough and parchment occasionally. If parchment wrinkles, peel off, smooth wrinkle and reposition parchment over dough; continue to roll out dough to required thickness.
- Cut into desired shapes. The easiest way is to remove the excess dough from the bottom parchment paper and slide the entire parchment paper sheet (with cut-out cookies) onto baking sheet.
- Bake until dry looking, firm to touch in center and just beginning to darken around edges, about 13 minutes. Note: this is the perfect time for house pieces, which you want to be a bit dryer, for individual cookies, start checking around 9 minutes.
- Slide parchment with gingerbread onto rack and cool completely. Rinse baking sheet under cold water to cool; wipe dry. Continue with rest of dough/cookies.
- While cookies are cooling, make icing. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in medium bowl until very foamy, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Beat until well blended. Add remaining cups sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating until well blended after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl occasionally.
- Beat icing at high speed until very thick and stiff, about 5 minutes.
- Place icing into pastry bag with a small round pastry tip.
- Use icing to decorate cookies or adhere gingerbread house pieces together.
Note: If concerned about salmonella, use egg white powder instead of egg whites.