Before I tell you about these very most favorite of cookies and before I tell you about the post I just deleted, I am happy to tell you that my January, February, and March classes have been announced! In January’s class, we will be taking some of the most basic foods – pizza, salad, chocolate chip cookies – and making them the very best that we can. In February, we will be celebrating the winter bounty (yes, I said bounty) that our Pacific Northwest soil brings to us with dishes like shepherd’s pie and beets in a lovely horseradish sauce. And in March, we will be learning more about Indian food. Space is very limited, so please let me know soon if you would like a spot. More information can be found here.
So yes, I deleted a post on purpose. I was composing a list of the Things You Can Do To Greatly Improve the Flavor of Your Food and I realized, when it was almost done, that I sounded awfully bossy. At this time of year, when you are likely feeling a little pressure, a little stressed, that you probably didn’t need bossy me telling you what you should and should not be buying and eating. So we will save that list for another time.
But. I do have to very gently suggest that you think about your spice rack for a moment. How old is your cinnamon? Your ginger? Your cloves? If the answer is more than a year or two old, or certainly if you can’t remember when you bought them, I would very gently suggest that you throw away those spices and start over. Here is the advice I give to students in my classes: Keep the jars, dump out the contents, and replace with fresh (bulk) spices bought from a reputable place. In Seattle, you can get terrific spices from World Spice Merchants (also available online), Market Spice and Penzey’s (also available online). The cost is so low and the payoff is so big. I can’t tell you what a difference new and fresh spices make in your cooking and baking, especially in a cookie as special as this one.
Every so often I post something here and marvel that I have never told you about it before. How can this be my fourth Christmas season writing this blog and only the first time mentioning the best gingerbread cookie I have ever tasted? Who knows. Sometimes I just can’t make it all work. Last year, when my baking list was a mile long and I had to be as efficient as possible, I left this cookie off the list. For some reason, I got it in my head that they were too much work for a super busy season and off they went. For shame. They really aren’t any more work than anything else and they are the spiciest most perfectly textured gingerbread ever. And they are pretty.
This is a recipe from Tartine. To make the cookies look pretty, you will need a Springerle rolling pin or plaque. The first year I made this cookie, I trekked down to the Pike Place Market to the original Sur la Table (did you know it started in Seattle?) with the intention to buy a pretty rolling pin. I am totally one of those people who can’t seem to find time to fold the laundry but can somehow create time to go and purchase an item in an out of the way spot. Amazon was not an option at that point or not one I knew about. Anyway. When I saw that the rolling pins were pricey, and really single use, I decided to go for more of a tile. Now a quick search on Amazon (I don’t have an affiliate program with them – they just have the best online selection) will turn up all sorts of options.
Of course you can just roll out the dough and use your favorite cookie cutters and dispense with pretty. We made a couple of gingerbread men with the scraps of the dough and I assure you that they taste no worse than the pretty diamonds you see above.
A few words of advice. I’ve never made these with a textured rolling pin but if you own or buy a plaque like I have, I can tell you how best to work with this dough. I roll out the refrigerated dough, press the mold very firmly into the dough, and then use a paring knife to cut around the mold. Repeat until the dough is used up, re-roll scraps once. I bake those large diamonds on a baking sheet and as soon as they are out of the oven, I use a larger knife to cut each big diamond into smaller ones. You do this while the dough is still soft and it gives you a sharper edge then if you cut them separately before baking. I would imagine that any mold you use will work well using this technique. Some of my diamonds really held the imprint of the mold and others, not so much. Don’t worry – they all taste the same. I have made both the easy and the slightly less easy versions of the icing and I would stick with easy (powdered sugar and water and no candy thermometer). Just be sure to sift your powdered sugar so you don’t get any lumps.
One Year Ago: Cranberry Walnut Braid
Two Years Ago: Smoked Tofu, Le Puy Lentil, and Spinach Salad
Three Years Ago: Glazed Butter Cookies
Soft Glazed Gingerbread
Makes 12 to 20 cookies depending on size of cutters
I’m keeping it simple by just copying the recipe as written in the book. Feel free to use my tips above or not. Also, I’m not including the more complicated icing because it’s truly not worth the effort.
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
4 tsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1¼ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ cup blackstrap or other dark molasses
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. water
To make the dough, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and mix on medium speed until the mixture is completely smooth and soft. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and mix well.
Add the molasses and corn syrup and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer again and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and all the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it on a large piece of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 1 inch thick, cover the dough with the plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner.
Unwrap the dough and place on a floured work surface. If using a plaque with a design, roll our the dough 1/2-inch thick, lightly dust the op with flour, press your cookie molds over the dough, and then cut out the shapes with a small knife and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Alternatively, using the mold as a guide, cut around it with a small knife, flip the mold over so the design is facing you, and place the dough over it, pressing it into the design. Unmold the shapes onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them.
If using a patterned rolling pin, lightly dust the lined baking sheet with flour and transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and roll it into a rectangle about 1/3 inch thick with a plain pin. Then, using the patterned pin, roll over the dough with enough pressure to ensure a clear impression of the design. Trim the sides with a small knife. It is not necessary to cut into smaller sizes before baking.
Bake the cookies until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers, 7 to 15 minutes. the timing will depend on the size of the individual cookies, or if you have made a single large patterned piece that will be cut after baking.
While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and water utnil smooth.
When the cookies are ready, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then, while the cookies are still warm, using even strokes, brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie, evenly coating it. Let the cookies cool completely. When the glaze dries, it should leave a shiny opaque finish. If you have a used a patterned rolling pin to make a single large plaque, cut into the desired shapes with a small very sharp knife. The cookies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for about 2 weeks.