Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas and Gingerbread

My favorite cookies during Christmas involve gingerbread. The smell, the taste - it just screams "holiday" to me. The Boys are a recipe that came with a cookie cutter (great because they are eggless and we happen to know some people with egg allergies) given to me by my mother after a trip to the scenic resort town of Ocean Shores, Washington. The Bears are from a recipe my mother has made for years, discovered in the December 1990 issue of Better Homes and Gardens, and they are the biggest hit with kids. The Spritz are a family classic - I don't remember a Christmas without them - but you will need a cookie press to make them. I use a Wilton Cookie Pro, and find that it is easy to clean and use. Happy Baking!

Gingerbread Boys

1 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup light molasses
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of cloves
½ cup cold tea
1 tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. lemon juice

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in molasses. Mix dry ingredients separately; add to molasses mixture alternately with the tea. Mix well, add the vanilla. Chill for 4 hours. Roll out to 1/8 of an inch and cut out with cookie cutters. Bake at 375 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes. Once cool, spread with frosting and decorate. To make frosting: melt the butter and combine all the ingredients together – makes about 1/3 cup.

Gingerbread Bears

1 cup margarine or butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
- Stir these ingredients over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Pour into large mixing bowl, cool for 5 minutes.

4 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. ground cloves
- Combine all these ingredients in a mixing bowl; set aside

1 beaten egg
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Add to the butter mixture; mix well

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until combined well. Cover and chill dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.

To shape bears: make ball about ¾” to 1” for the body and a slightly smaller ball for the head. Make small balls for ears and nose. Roll logs for legs and arms – cut to size with knife. Assemble on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten head and body balls slightly and attach ears, nose, arms and legs. Press miniature chocolate chips point side up for eyes. For paws, press mini chocolate chips point side in, into ends of arms and legs. Bake at 325 degrees for about 12-15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Makes about 36 small bears.

Gingerbread Spritz

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
½ cup molasses
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ¾ cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, molasses and brown sugar; add egg and vanilla extract – beat well. In another bowl stir together the flour and other dry ingredients. Add to the creamed mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed. Cover and chill dough for 1 to 2 hours.

Fill cookie press with part of the dough and press on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 7 minutes or until set. Remove and cool. If desired, drizzle with glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar, ¼ tsp. vanilla extract, 1 Tbsp. milk or enough to make glaze of drizzling consistency. Makes 4 dozen.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Holiday cheer: Linda's rum balls

These were (and perhaps still are) standard fare at UVA religious studies department holiday parties during our former secretary Linda's tenure. Rumored to light with a match, although Linda says they don't. That might require more rum.

1 cup crushed vanilla wafers
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup nuts
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 cup rum
2 tablespoons cocoa

Mix the ingredients. Roll them into balls and then in sugar.