Yesterday I found myself opening cabinets and checking for molasses and cinnamon. The next thing I knew, I had dug out my folded and tattered Christmas recipe page and tiptoed around it for a few hours. This is the stained and splattered page that also has Almond Toffee Bark and Cappuccino Biscotti written on it, and for some reason, I keep this paper tucked way back in the drawer underneath the plastic wrap and zip-lock bags. I don’t know why because all my other recipes are neatly tucked into my blue notebook. The next thing I knew, I ended up with some big pipe organ holiday choir nonsense playing really loudly and tons of gingerbread boys and stars and trees cooling everywhere.
I think I have professed my dislike of cookie baking more than once on this blog. The exception is this one holiday cookie recipe. Sadly, for the past several years, I have not done any personal holiday baking because owning the café and zero spare time sort of swept the holiday spirit right out of my personal life.
Until I opened the café, I had made these gingerbread men without fail for years and years. These cookies have served as gifts for neighbors, friends, and various parties as part of the festivities. I was not even sure how far back this recipe went, so I called my mom to see where she got it. She has no recollection but we did decide that she has had her tattered dog-eared copy since before I was born. As we were chatting I could just picture that recipe card written in her pretty and distinct cursive handwriting. I know that these gingerbread cookies have been part of my holiday memories forever.
I don’t know why, but I prefer these cut into small gingerbread boys and little stars and trees. There is just something about a little two-bite cookie that appeals to me. It is fun to stuff about six of these into a little white paper bag and attach a curl of red ribbon before piling them all into a big basket to hand out with abandon. The combination of a huge batch of dough and small cookie cutters means everyone gets a fist full of treats and nobody feels obligated to share.
I love this recipe for reasons beyond the history and tradition. One batch makes a sleigh load of cookies. This is a two-step cookie dough you can mix up on a Saturday afternoon and then chill for a few hours or overnight. Follow with rolling, cutting and baking, and knock out your entire “neighbors and co-workers” gift list. This dough also keeps for days in the fridge and can be rolled, cut, and baked in small batches as the need arises.
Even though I am sometimes a little “bah humbug” this time of year, I guess I am just going to have to admit to having the holiday spirit. If you haven’t read the Lell’s Café book, then you really can’t grasp how insane my life was for a few years. As much as I would not trade that experience, I am very happy to be planning to celebrate another Christmas with my parents in New Mexico. I’m very lucky to have the luxury of the time to get on a plane so that I can be with family and smell the pinion smoke and eat plenty of green chili. I’m glad to have the love of friends and reasons to celebrate this season of giving.
It took a tattered and stained old piece of paper and a fairly wrecked kitchen, but the holiday spirit is here, and I may or may not have listened to a little Bing Crosby before I went to bed last night.
- Oven 375 degrees
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 eggs
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. table salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, and molasses and bring to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Stir well and allow to rest until room temperature
- When the mixture is cooled, pour into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and add the two eggs.
- Beat on medium speed to combine thoroughly. Of course you can do all of this by hand with a trusty wooden spoon.
- Sift together the flour, salt, soda, and spices.
- Add the dry ingredients slowly a few cups at a time and mix on low until all the flour is incorporated.
- This is a heavy and stiff dough. If you are using a handmixer you may need to do the last bit of stirring with a strong wooden spoon to save wearing out the motor.
- Divide the dough into four pieces and wrap each portion tightly in plastic wrap. Store wrapped dough in a large Ziploc bag and chill in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
- You can store in the fridge for several days, and instead of rolling out all the dough at once, you can use one portion of the dough at a time to bake a smaller batch of cookies. This is a great method if you are pressed for time and just need a few quick gifts.
- When ready to bake remove one portion of the dough and allow to warm up for about 5 minutes so it is easier to roll.
- Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it is ¼ inch thick. Keep a small amount of flour to the side to dust the cutters and rolling pin as needed.
- Cut out the shapes you like and place on a parchment covered cookie sheet at least ½ inch apart. These do not spread or rise a great deal, but they still need a bit of room to keep from holding hands.
- Gather the dough scraps and roll out and cut until all the dough has been used. If the dough gets too warm just wrap and re-chill.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, allowing them to lightly brown and remove from the oven.
- Let them cool and harden for five minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring with a spatula to cooling racks. Allow to rest until completely cool.
- These will be crisp and beautifully brown. Store in an airtight container or gallon-size Ziploc bag
- Try your best not to revisit the container every five minutes for another sample. Despite what you think, they do not need to be tested for flavor development as the day progresses.