Do you guys watching cooking shows on television? There are several I watch religiously - Barefoot Contessa, 5 Ingredient Fix, Giada at Home, and Top Chef, to name a few. I also record Martha Stewart every day, though (don't tell her) but I don't really watch the entire show so much as fast forward through everything until I find the cooking/baking segments. Martha moved her show to the Hallmark channel this season, and introduced a few programs, including one of my new favorites, Mad Hungry with Lucinda Scala Quinn. She cooks simple, fresh food with recipes that are easy to follow and I love her passion for sharing food with her family. Recently she did an episode focusing on homemade gifts for the holidays and shared the idea for gingerbread cookie ornaments. I thought they were adorable, and since I'd been wanting to try this particular gingerbread cookie recipe for a while (I think it appeared in an issue of Martha Stewart Living a few years ago), I got to work.
This dough is a little tricky to work with because there's quite a bit of honey in the recipe. Even after some time in the fridge, the dough is fairly soft so don't be afraid to be liberal with the flour so you can roll and cut your cookies. Also, you can always pop the dough back into your fridge or freezer briefly to firm it up before continuing if it gets too warm. If you want to make ornaments you just need to make a hole in the top of your cookies before baking them. I found the easiest way to do that was to use a large wooden skewer. The holes will shrink slightly in the oven, but upon initially removing the cookies from the oven they'll still be malleable enough that you can enlarge the hole again using the wooden skewer. It occurred to me that you could use tiny cookie cutters to make name tags for gifts using this same method, and I think that would be cute too.
Because of the honey, the cookies are a little sweeter and lighter in color than traditional gingerbread cookies though they're still plenty fragrant from the warm spices. My cookies were on the softer side and chewy, and since I was worried about durability, I ended up baking them a few extra minutes. I decorated the gingerbread men simply using this royal icing recipe. I'm still undecided about how I want the snowflakes to look, so for now I've simply outlined them. Luckily, I've still got 4 days to figure it out...
Honey Gingerbread Cookies
from Martha Stewart
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and all of the spices. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the honey and molasses and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Divide the dough into 3 portions and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove one portion of dough from the refrigerator. On a generously floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough to a scant 1/4 inch thick. Brush excess flour off the dough then slide it (along with the parchment) onto a baking sheet, and freeze for 15 minutes.
Remove from the freezer and use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes. Transfer the cookies to parchment-lined baking sheets, and freeze for 15 minutes.
Bake the cookies for 6 minutes then remove the baking sheets from the oven, and tap them firmly on your counter to flatten them. Return the cookies to the oven, rotating sheets, and bake until crisp but not darkened, about 6 to 8 minutes more. Let cool on the baking sheets on wire racks.
Decorate with royal icing if desired. If you do, let the cookies stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours (or, even better - overnight). Store in airtight containers for up to a week.