The Christmas season is in full swing; my husband and I braved Black Friday shopping (late in the afternoon, of course), the house is decorated and we had the annual cookie baking day at my Grandma’s this past weekend. Despite the cold weather, it truly is one of my favorite times of year. To make it even better, Hailey seems to be extra excited for Christmas this year! I don’t remember her looking forward to the holiday this much since she was little and believed in Santa. She’s counting down the days, expressing her desire for Christmas to be here ‘now’ daily and, as I’m writing this post, we’re watching The Grinch! Life is sweet. And so are these cookies. I took on the job of baking the gingerbread cookies this year to help my Grandma who is busy enough these days. It was my first time making them and since they will be shared on plenty of cookie plates over the next few weeks there was no pressure at all 🙂
Being my first time baking with molasses, I got worried when I opened the bottle and poured the syrup like liquid into the measuring cup. I’m talking about the smell. My grandma claims to love the smell of molasses, but I must disagree and admit I was slightly concerned for the future gingerbread boys and girls! Luckily, molasses tastes better than it smells, especially when combined with sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Phew!
The little red cookie cutter is my favorite part of this baking story. If you’ve read more than two of my posts, you probably know my love for all things with hidden meaning. The gingerbread cookie cutter is from a baking set my Mom had as a little kid. My grandma has tried others over the years, but always came back to this one – even with his one cracked leg. The cookie cutter worked like a charm for me and has officially moved into my kitchen drawer which must mean I passed the test and got the gingerbread baking job for Christmases to come.
On that note, I have to get back to our annual Christmas baking day. I brought my frozen gingerbread cookies and my grandma already had butterballs, buckeyes (my husband’s absolute favorite), stars and jam thumbprints made. I went up a little early this time so we had some one on one time Friday and I learned how to fill, roll and bake date pinwheels. I have this recipe framed in my kitchen so it was nice to learn the process firsthand this year. If that sentence left you wondering, I saw an idea on Pinterest (where else?) to frame a handwritten family recipe and loved the idea of making it part of my kitchen decor. I’d still like to get one from my other grandma who is famous for her homemade noodles and deviled eggs. These are the type of items that make a house a home.
On Saturday, we (myself, my Mom and my brother’s girlfriend) arrived at my grandma’s early and spent basically the whole day in the kitchen. We made cut-outs, gingersnaps, graham cracker cookies, caramels and Oreo truffles. It was like a busy bakery with cookies everywhere you looked! My dad and brother even joined the fun this year; between that and the usual company at the house it was another mini family reunion similar to the day we canned salsa in the summer! This baking day comes and goes so fast every year, but I’m feeling quite blessed that it’s a day we have together each December.
Now, if you’re going to bake these gingerbread cookies be sure to set aside a few hours of your day. The prep work will take some time, but the batch size you bake will play a big role in how many hours you spend in the kitchen covered in flour. Just me? Don’t forget your apron! If you follow the recipe below exactly, you will have nine dozen cookies!! Most people may be satisfied with making slightly less than that 🙂 Your time consuming steps will be rolling out the dough, cutting out each cookie and decorating at the end. The actual baking of the cookies is quick and before we jump to the recipe I have to stress to watch them closely, because if they burn they may be a bit ‘brick like’. I only baked each tray for five minutes and they came out perfectly soft! Recipe’s below. Happy baking!!
Gingerbread Cookies (yields approximately 9 dozen cookies)
- 1 cup Shortening (crisco)
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 Egg
- 1 cup Molasses
- 2 Tbsp Vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
- 1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 3 1/2 cups Flour
- 1 Tbsp Ginger, ground
- 1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
- 1 lb Powdered Sugar
- 1/2 stick Butter
- 1 tsp pure Vanilla Extract
- 3 Tbsp Milk (I used 2%)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the shortening, sugar, egg, molasses, vinegar, baking soda and salt.
- Once the ingredients in step 2 are mixed well, add the ginger and cinnamon. Gradually add the flour and mix until well combined.
- Flour your rolling surface (silicon mat, cutting board or countertop). Working with manageable sized portions of dough, flour as needed to prevent sticking and begin rolling out with rolling pin, also flipping dough over as needed.
- When the dough is 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, use your cookie cutter to cut out cookies and place them on the parchment paper covered baking sheet.
- Bake for five minutes, remove from oven and place on cooling rack.*
- Repeat steps 4 – 6 until all dough has been used.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, add powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk. Mix well.
- Cut the corner of a small Ziploc bag and fill with icing. Decorate cookies and allow to set before storing in an airtight container.**
*Another option for cooling the cookies is to use a brown paper bag. Simply cut the bag so you can lay it flat and place the cookies on top. The paper bags are great for absorbing any grease.
**These cookies freeze exceptionally well. If you decide to freeze yours, separate each layer with wax or parchment paper and cover the top layer of cookies as well. This is a great option for getting all of your cookies baked ahead of time and just having to get them out of the freezer throughout the holiday season to make cookie plates!
As always, thanks for reading!!