Every winter I fall in love with the cold, quite mornings. I find myself staring past bare branches into the damp grey clouds that linger in the barely-frigid air. I watch as they morph and flow from one shapeless mass to the other. I wait and watch. And I wish for them to fall to the ground in a flurry.
As long as I can remember I’ve been watching wintertime clouds. Sometimes a cup of cocoa warms my hands, other times a pair of tight, wool mittens. Sometimes my ears are bare and red and sometimes they’re draped in the soft comfort of an old scarf. But always, no matter where I am whom with, I stare at the sky and I wish.
I wont get to watch the sky fall in a mist of white specs, or feel the fleeting chill of a snowflake landing on a cheek. I wont feel a fresh field of snow crunch and fall beneath my feet or the burn as I scoop a pile of snow into my hands. I may not get to sled down a hill or find myself lost in the damn white blur of a blizzard but this year I can still share a snowflake with my friends. I can still hand my brother a one of a kind, glimmering white treat. I can surprise my mother with a custom-created, just for her, gingerbread snowflake.
No two snowflakes are alike. And that’s just how I like my cookies too.
Decorating Cookies: While decorating gingerbread cookies can be a simple task, it often requires a lot of time, intense concentration and an abundance of patience. For that reason I’ve labeled this recipe as difficult. Approach this task with an open mind, a generous amount of time to spare, and when you’re at your most patient. The time and concentration spent on these cookies are well worth it. Of course no one will want to eat them when you’re finished, no matter how delicious they are. Below the written instructions is a visual representation of the steps to help you.
- 3 dozen Snowflake-Shaped Gingerbread Cookies
- (recipe below)
- 12 ounces White Royal Icing (recipe below)
- White or Silver Dragees, for decorating
- White or Silver Sprinkles, for decorating
- White or Silver Sanding Sugar, for decorating
- Powdered sugar, for decorating
- Bake the cookies according to the instructions and set aside to cool. Prepare the royal icing according to the instructions. Fill three piping bags, each fitted with a different size round piping tip, with equal amounts royal icing.
- Start by converting two dozen of the cookies into 12 stacked cookies:
- Choose the same or a differently shaped cookie to stack onto another cookie, slightly offset as to give the snowflake a more intricate appearance. Do this by piping a small blob of royal icing ontop of one of the cookies. Press the second cookie onto the first and set aside to let the royal icing dry, about 30 minutes.
- For Both Types of Cookies: Place dragees, sprinkles or sanding sugar on while the icing is still damp.
- For Both Types of Cookies: Let the icing on the cookies dry completely, about 30 minutes.
- For Both Cookies: Let the second layer icing or additions dry and settle completely, about 30 minutes.
Gingerbread Cookies: Gingerbread cookies are one of my favorite parts about the holidays. Not only are they insanely delicious but they are a blast to decorate. The best part is they are perfect little edible gifts to share with friends and family. In my recipe I use a mix of all purpose and whole wheat flour to give the cookies an earthy, hearty base for the spices. As for the spices I stay simple and use only ground ginger and ground cinnamon. Also, instead of using molasses, which I find a bit too pungent, I use cane syrup. Cane syrup is very similar to molasses but it much sweeter.
- 8 ounces all purpose flour
- 4 ounces whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp.
- 3 ounces sugar
- 3 ounces brown sugar
- ¼ cup pure cane syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Mix the dry ingredients (all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon and salt) together in a bowl and set aside.
- Cream together the soft butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Mix at medium speed.
- Add the cane syrup and vanilla and mix until completely blended in.
- Mix at medium-low speed.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition until completely blended in.
- Mix at medium-low speed.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix until a thick, dry dough forms.
- Mix at low speed.
- Place the dough on to a large sheet of parchment paper. Flatten the dough slightly into a disk. Wrap the dough in the parchment paper and refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into halves. Keep the half you're not working with in the fridge. Roll the other half out on a slightly floured surface to about ⅛" inch thick. Using snowflake or flower cookie cutters, cut out variously shaped cookies and place them on a baking sheet.
- Press the remaining dough together and mix it into a ball. Roll it out again and cut additional cookies from the dough. Continue this until the dough is gone.
- Repeat steps 8 and 9 with the second half.
- Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for about 11 to 15 minutes or until the edges just start to brown. Cookies baked for 11 or 12 minutes should still be soft. Cookies baked any longer will be more firm. Cookies baked for 15 minutes will be crisp.
- Let cool on the baking sheet a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Royal Icing: Like most icings, royal icing is quite simple to make. It does require egg whites though to help set and harden the icing. I suggest using pasteurized egg whites though in a pinch raw egg whites straight from the egg shouldn’t hurt. Use as little vanilla as possible to keep from discoloring the icing. You’ll also notice this recipe calls for a variable amount of sugar. Many factors including just how large the egg whites are, the humidity in the air, among other things, can determine how fluid the icing becomes. Because a specific consistency rather than an amount is required, some testing is necessary.
Testing Consistency: After mixing the icing, place a drop on a cool cookie. Wait 5 to 10 minutes to see how the icing settles. The icing should barely spread at all and should form a small dome. If the icing runs or spreads, add more sugar. If the icing forms a point and does not spread at all, add a little more egg white.
- 8 to 10+ ounces powdered sugar
- 1½ fluid ounces egg whites,
- about 2 egg whites
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 drop lemon juice
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
- Test the consistency and adjust accordingly. Check the notes above for how to determine if the icing is correct.