Gingerbread Men: The Recipe
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Soooooo behind on blogging....
Ok, so these aren't our traditional cookies for the holidays (we go super FOB for our treats every year!) but the occasion arose where I needed to make cookies for kids to decorate. Sugar and gingerbread men were requested. I got a good recipe for sugar cookies, but was lost with the gingerbread one. After must research and inquiries, I got frustrated and made up my own. My version has the right color, the spice is there without being overly spicy so even the picky eaters will eat them, and are still cookie-ish (they won't get as hard as cardboard two minutes later). Also, I feel like mine are a bit more authentic....
I love going back into history to see how they did it before all of our fancy pants equipment, easy shortcuts, and other crappy ingredients. I did the same here and added two majorly different ingredients than what we generally using frequently modern times: crystalized ginger and grains of paradise.
Crystalized ginger is pieces of real ginger that have been cured in sugar and dried -- the flavor is super concentrated like real ginger, so you preserve that punch of spicy ginger flavor that the powdered version simply lacks. You don't need a lot of it -- one cube is usually enough to flavor an entire dish or batch of dough -- and it will keep literally forever. I highly recommend picking up some and keeping it in your pantry. Makes a killer tea in a pinch too!
The other ingredient is grains of paradise. Not bird, grain. A cousin to the black peppercorn, this spice is a tiny grain a similar size of a mustard seed. The flavor is a cross between spicy black peppercorn and fragrant cardamom. It comes out of west Africa and was a popular spice throughout Europe during the middle ages. It fell out of favor as the black peppercorn began to take roots in Europe, but it's making a culinary comeback. The spiciness is not as intense as black peppercorn, but still has a lovely aroma and bite to it. And the cardamom and sweet citrus undernote goes beautifully with spicy ginger.
For this recipe I took the crystalized ginger and ground it into a paste (see pic above). Notes on how to do that quickly below.
This recipe will yield a good 2 dozen cookies of smaller gingerbread men size. It rolls out quite well, so you can use it to make most any cookie shape. It'll also keep in the fridge and freezer until ready to use. Enjoy!
1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp candied ginger paste*
1/2 tsp grains of paradise (preferably ground)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, grains of paradise, cinnamon, and clove in a bowl. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric hand held mixer fitted with the beater attachments. Work on it on medium speed about 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until incorporated in. Add the molasses and mix until combined. You'll get a nice, darkened velvety consistency at this point. Now, slowly add the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) to the batter and mix it in each time. Go slowly and work on the lowest speed. As you add more flour, the batter will get considerably thicker and thicker and feel harder to beat. Once the ingredients are all combined, set aside.
Turn the dough out onto a working surface with a little flour sprinkled on top and work the dough together into a ball. You'll see it'll come together pretty easily and quickly. Flatten it out into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate it until ready to use.
To make the cookies, cut the dough in half and work on a floured surface. Roll out each half of the dough until you get about 1/4" thick. Cut out using your cookie cutter shapes, place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or a silpat) and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack completely, then frost and decorate to your liking!
*To make candied ginger paste you'll need candied ginger and a food processor or spice grinder of some type. Take about 1/4 cup of the candied ginger cubes and chop them small with a knife. This will help them turn into a paste without destroying the motor of your machine. Then place in the processor and process until it comes together into a ball. The consistency will be like a super thick paste. You can keep the rest of it in the fridge for a few weeks to use in vinaigrette bases, desserts, and even tea.