Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies and More

Here we are in the biggest food frenzy of the year, and I can’t seem to finish a post. There is so much to do, so much to cook, so much to eat, and of course general life to live. And then the kids are out of school which now totally inhibits getting anything productive done. Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys, but we do best when we get out of the house and stay busy.

Try as I may, I’m just not a multi-tasking mom with the patience of Job. They love to help me in the kitchen and when it is one on one, I often enjoy it. However, when it is both of them hovering over me, grabbing at things, wedging themselves on the step stool right in front of me, spilling flour, making messes and fighting over who gets to lick the spoon, it’s hard not to take over and kick everyone out of the kitchen. However, I know it is good for them to help and to take ownership of food projects intended for others. Because we all know, food is love.  I have to remind myself that it's about more than the look and taste of the finished product, the mess, the frustrations – it’s about the fond memories we’ll one day share.

We made cookies for their teachers and I did my best to be a saintly mother. Of course, whenever I’m baking specially for others, something goes awry. My goal was to make adorably festive Chocolate Candy Cane Kiss Cookies. You know the ones with the Hershey kiss neatly wedged on top. Yeah right, is all I can say! No matter what I tried, the candy kept melting on top. I even tried freezing them immediately. Did I still give the cookies away as gifts anyway? Heck, yes!

Cookie Fail. But they did taste really good!

Then we made some thumbprint jam cookies. They turned out pretty well – though a little flatter and less perfect-looking than I would have liked. The recipe came off the back of a new sheet pan I bought. I love recipes on packages because they work well for those who are indecisive and last-minute in the kitchen!

Strawberry and Apricot Jam Thumbprint Cookies

However, the recipe I’m going to share with you is the one that turned out best. Of course, it was the one we made just for fun because my oldest was intent on making gingerbread men cookies. I don’t think I had ever made homemade gingerbread before. I've never been a “spice flavored” person. I like spice cookies, but if given a choice, I’d go for the more chocolatety, buttery and decadent option. Clearly, I have been missing out. There is something so satisfying about these cookies because they aren't too sweet. Actually, I’m getting kind of tired of sugary decadence (I say that, but I just ate a piece of my birthday cheesecake)!

I call these “Georgia Gingerbread Cookies” because I used local sorghum syrup instead of molasses. Sorghum is similar to molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process, but I think the taste is a little milder and sweeter. I don’t keep molasses around, but I do have sorghum because it’s a Southern staple for sopping biscuits. (I’ll have to post about sopping soon.) I also used fresh grated ginger in addition to powdered ginger for some extra punch. Yum!

Georgia Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted from this recipe 

3 cups all-purpose flour (I mixed half white whole wheat, half plain)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg
A dash of fresh ground black pepper (sounds crazy, but trust me)
6 tablespoons butter
¾ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
½ cup sorghum syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dry spices until well blended. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and egg until fluffy. Add syrup, vanilla, orange zest and grated ginger and continue to mix until well blended. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.

Divide dough in half and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and let it chill for at least two hours. When you’re ready to roll, let the dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Generously flour the working surface and mix in more flour if the dough feels sticky. Roll dough to desired consistency and cut into shapes. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet about an inch apart. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.

Bake for 7-10 minutes until slightly puffy and firm. For soft cookies, bake around 7-8 minutes. For crispy cookies, bake a little longer. Remove from oven and let them sit on the pan for five minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Decorate with chocolate chips, candy piece, melted chocolate or royal icing if you’d like. I experimented a little with candy, melted chocolate and sprinkles.

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season filled with cookies – and lots of love. Enjoy!


  1. Rachel,

    Your cookies look marvelous! Your kitchen certainly has been a frenzy of activity. Merry Christmas to you and your family. :)

  2. I'm wishing I was one of the lucky teacher's who received some of these. Merry Christmas.

  3. Thanks so much, Jackie and Paula. Merry Christmas to you as well!

  4. I hear you! I can only bake with my children if I'm in the right mood! My kitchen is a little too small for too much help and it starts feeling crazy. Plus I don't always have the time to clean up the extra mess... they did a great job though, wonky kisses and all!

  5. Thanks, Jen, for visiting! I have a VERY small kitchen and three is a crowd. You're definitely right -- you have to be in the right mood! :)