Gingerbread Cookies

Recipe

It is that time of year again when the holidays are looming ever closer, snowflakes start drifting down from the sky, and decorations are everywhere—including colorful lights blinking on trees and in windows.  I got this recipe from Joanne Fluke’s mystery book called Gingerbread Cookie Murder.  It is great for the holidays because we usually associate gingerbread men with Christmas.  There is something about spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg that bring us back to cozy Winter nights.

Gingerbread Cookies

DO NOT preheat oven—This dough must chill overnight.

You will need:
-1 cup softened, salted butter (2 sticks, 1/2 pound, 8 ounces)
-1 cup white (granulated) sugar
-1/2 cup hot strong coffee
-2/3 cup dark molasses
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon salt
-2 and 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger
-1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I’m not fond of cloves so I leave this out)
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-4 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (don’t sift it—pack it down in the cup when you measure it)

In a large bowl, mix the softened butter with the white sugar.  Add the half-cup of hot strong coffee and then stir in the dark molasses.  Mix in the baking soda, salt, ground ginger, ground cloves, and cinnamon.  Stir well.  Add the flour in half-cup increments, mixing after each addition.  Give everything a final stir and then cover your bowl with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning when you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F., rack in the middle position.
Divide the dough into four parts for ease in rolling.  Roll out the first part of the dough on a floured board.  If you plan to use gingerbread men or reindeer-shaped cookie cutters, roll your dough out to 1/4 inch thick.  (Arms and legs tend to snap off when you frost them if they’re rolled too thin.)  Otherwise roll your dough out to 1/8 inch thick.
Dip the cookie cutters in flour and cut out cookies, getting as many as you can from the sheet of dough.  Use a metal spatula to remove the cookies from the rest of the sheet of dough and place them on an UNGREASED cookie sheet.  Leave at least an inch and a half between cookies.  Once you’ve cut out your cookies, there will be leftover dough.  You can gather it into a ball, re-flour the board, and re-roll it.  (I’ve done this up to three times—the fourth time the dough got too stiff to roll well.)
If you want to use colored sugar or sprinkles to decorate, put it on now, before baking and press it down just a bit with your fingers or with the spatula.  If you’d rather frost the cookies, wait until they’re baked and completely cooled.
Bake 1/4 inch thick cookies at 375 degrees F. for 10 to 12 minutes.  Leave them on the sheet for a minute or two and then transfer them to a wire rack to complete cooling.
Bake 1/8 inch thick cookies at 375 degrees F. for 8 to 10 minutes.  Leave them on the cookie sheet for a minute or two and then transfer them to a wire rack to complete cooling.

Cookie Icing:

You will need:
-2 cups sifted confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or other flavoring)
-1/4 cup cream

Mix up icing, adding a little more cream if it’s too thick and a little more powdered sugar if it’s too thin.  If you’d like to frost the cookies in different colors, divide the icing and put it in several small bowls.  Add drops of the desired food coloring to each bowl.  Use a frosting knife, or use a brush to “paint” the cookies you’ve baked.
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen cookies made with small cookie cutters, 2 to 3 dozen cookies made with large cookie cutters, 8 to 10 dozen dough ball cookies.

Merry baking and have a happy and safe holiday season!

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