gingerbread cookiesNext up in the 2,000 cookie marathon are gingerbread cookies. If snickerdoodles say Christmas, gingerbread men scream it(and probably in tiny high pitched voices). I always make gingerbread people because they’re adorable and traditional.  But you can cut them into any shape you want.  Same for the decorations.  I chose quick and simple this year(I am aiming to make 2,000 cookies. Simplicity wins), but in this past, I’ve covered them in icing, drawn cute outfits on them, glued candy to them… I made little Adam and Eves for my husband to find coming home late from work.  I probably won’t leave those out for Santa, though.

gingerbread cookies

adapted from Christmas 101 via the food network

ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1  tsp. baking soda
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 stick(8 tbl.) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup light molasses
  • 1 large egg

for icing:

  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tbl. dried egg white powder
  • 6 tbl. water

Take out butter, egg and shortening and let come to room temperature.  Sift flour, baking soda, spices and salt in to a medium bowl. Set aside.  Combine butter and shortening in a standing mixer, then add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add molasses and the egg.  Turn mixer to low, then add flour mixture slowly, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until  thoroughly combined.  Divide dough in half, make 2 disks, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill in the refrigerator at least 3 hours(dough will keep overnight and the next day if you want to make it in advance).

When ready to bake the cookies, put your oven racks in the top and bottom 1/3rd positions in your oven.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Take dough out the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, until you can bend it without cracking.  Roll out dough on well floured surface with floured rolling pin, 1/4″ thick for crispy cookies., and to 1/2″ thick for softer cookies.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place cutouts 1″ apart on  ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 2 sheets at a time, one on each shelf, switching halfway through, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven when edges start to turn brown.  Cool on cookie sheet on a wire rack 5 minutes, then move cookies off sheet onto rack to cool the rest of the way.

  To make the icing, combine all ingredients in an electric mixer on low for 1 minute, then turn speed to high for 3-5 minutes, until frosting is thick and stiff.  Use a pastry bag with a small tip to pipe decorative trim on your cookies.

152 cookies made, 1,725 to go.

gingerbread man marshmallowsSo you like the idea of homemade marshmallows, but think squares are boring? Me, too.  So get out your cookie cutters!  Marshmallows cut beautifully with cookie cutters.  You can do hearts for Valentine’s day, shamrocks for St. Patty’s, pumpkins for Halloween.  Put a drop or two of food coloring in them to make them fun colors.  I made mini gingerbread men using the gingerbread marshmallow recipe here.   I’ve been putting them in my morning(and afternoon)coffee for a little spice. Instead of pouring them into a 9×13 pan, use jelly roll pans or cookie sheets with raised sides.  I made these with a cookie sheet and a 9×9 pan, so I could have cubes and little men.  Enjoy!

vanilla bean, peppermint, gingerbread, and chocolate homemade marshmallows

Have you ever had a homemade marshmallow?  Well, you should, and as soon as you can.  Homemade versus store bought marshmallows are like homemade vs. store cookies.  Or spaghetti sauce. Or cupcakes.  You get the idea.  Homemade marshmallows are so superior to those ones you get in a bag at the supermarket that they shouldn’t even have the same name.  These are light and fluffy, and taste like food, not chemicals. They seem indulgent, but are easy to make.  You can use cookie cutters to make shapes, food coloring to make different colors.  You can make almost any flavor you can think of.  Just realize that adding something with weight (like the chocolate) will decrease their size.  There are lots of recipes for marshmallows.  I like this one, because it uses honey instead of corn syrup.

vanilla bean marshmallows

adapted from Melissa Clark

ingredients

  • 3 envelopes( or 3 tbl.) unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large vanillla bean, split open and scraped
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Put 1 cup of cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it to bloom, about 5 minutes.  In a large pot with a candy thermometer attached, combine sugar, honey and 1/2 cup water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep from boiling over, until mixture reaches 240°.  While sugar mixture cooks on the stove, whisk egg whites and salt until soft peaks begin to form.  If you keep the mixer on the medium setting, your sugar mixture and eggs should be ready at the same time.  If eggs are ready first, just turn mixer down to stir setting until sugar is ready.  If sugar mixture is ready first, you can keep it on the stove over low heat.  Be careful not to let mixture get any hotter than 240°.(If it goes over 250°, you havereached the “hard boil” stage and it won’t work anymore.)

When eggs and sugar mixture are both ready, carefully pour sugar mixture into mixer.  Turn mixer to high, wait a minute to cool, then add gelatin, vanilla extract, and inside of vanilla bean.  Continue to whisk on high until marshmallow reaches almost the top of the mixing bowl.  This should take 5-10 minutes.  While you are waiting, spray a 9×13 pan very lightly with nonstick cooking spray.  Mix cornstarch and powdered sugar in a small bowl, then coat the bottom and sides of the oiled pan.Do your spraying and sugaring over the sink.  It’s a mess.  Bang your pan against the inside of the sink a few times to tap out the excess cornstarch/sugar.  Save the remaining cornstarch/sugar.

When the marshmallow is ready, pour into the pan, and use a plastic spatula to smooth the top.  Let set at room temperature overnight(or at least 4 hours).  Run a knife around the edge of the marshmallow pan.  Sprinkle cornstarch/sugar onto a cutting board and invert marshmallow pan onto it.  Tap it a few times to release the marshmallow.  Use food scissors or a knife to cut marshmallow to desired size.  Put the last of the cornstarch/sugar mixture into a plastic bag.  Put cut marshmallows into the bag.  Shake to coat.  Tap off excess sugar and place marshmallows on a wire rack for an hour to dry a little.  Store in an airtight container for up to a month.(Do not store in a ziploc bag.  This makes the marshmallows “sweat’.)

 

peppermint

Skip the vanilla bean, decrease vanilla extract to 1 tsp. and add 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract and 1 drop red food coloring.

gingerbread

skip the vanilla bean and vanilla extract.  Into the sugar mixture on the stove, add

  • 1/2 cup molasses
  •  1 &1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 &1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves

these will take a little longer to fluff up, 10-15 minutes

chocolate

Skip the vanilla bean, decrease vanilla extract to 1 tsp.  Over a double boiler, mix together until melted

  • 3 0z. semisweet chocolate
  • 2&1/2 tbl. cocoa powder

Add melted chocolate to marshmallow mixture after you add the gelatin.  These will take about 20 minutes on high speed to mix, and they won’t be as fluffy.  Instead of using a powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture, replace powdered sugar with equal amount of cocoa powder.