Tuesday, 18 December 2012

:: Not the Gumdrop Button... ::

Meg’s Vanilla Bean & Gingerbread Cookies
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: gingerbread men & rudolf reindeer - two ways ::

I have fond holiday memories of Gingerbread Houses growing up. It wasn’t something my mum made, however family friends would sometimes make the most amazing gingerbread houses at Christmas time that I admired with wonder, also a watering mouth. The kids would all demolish it together with squeals of delight… eating the gumdrop lolly features & hardened icing first, of course!

Strangely enough, it was also going to Pizza Hut in the big city of Albury (an hours drive from where we lived) & always getting a gingerbread man for the ride home. Back then, I didn’t really like the foreign ginger taste in a cookie, but grew to love the spiced sweetness that you encounter with this special cookie. I would eat the icing with sprinkles off first, changing the colour of my face, then follow onto the cookie. Yum.

:: my favourite gingerbread man copper cookie cutter ::

Now that I have a child of my own, I would also like him to have the same fond recollections of Gingerbread at special occasions. Each birthday I have made him this recipe & now we are making Christmas Cookies in festive shapes for him to put icing “squeeze” on to & to decorate with friends. I am yet to attempt a Gingerbread House, but the next Christmas that we have at our house, you can bet on it!

Ginger Cookie Recipe
125g butter, softened
cup brown sugar
cup golden syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp of vanilla bean paste or seeds of 1 vanilla bean
2 cups plain flour
cup self raising flour
1 Tbs ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate soda

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Prepare 3 cookie trays with baking paper. Note: Make sure they can also fit into your freezer. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar, vanilla & golden syrup together until pale & creamy. Add the egg gradually & beat until combined. Add the flours, ginger spices, bircarb soda & place your mixer on slow until just combined. Turn out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth, for about 1-2 minutes.
Take off one of your baking papers from a cookie tray. Roll out approximately a third of the dough on the baking paper until about 5mm (1/4 inch) thick. Lift the paper & place onto your baking tray & put into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill, or until firm enough to cut. While this is chilling, repeat the process & roll out some more dough to place in the freezer. 
Carefully lift the paper of chilled rolled gingerbread off the tray & press out your shapes. Cautiously place them onto a cookie tray with baking paper underneath. Place into the oven while the dough is still cool & bake in oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. 
Cool on trays then transfer to a cooling rack. 
Ice with Megann's Basic Royal Icing if desired.

:: In an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

:: golden syrup goodness ::
:: about to mix together - soft butter & sweeteners ::
Kitchen Notes
:: For Christmas I add a little bit of Christmas with my spices: such as Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Allspice. eg- 1½  tsp dried ginger & ½ tsp of mixed Christmas spice for this mixture quantity. Be sure to taste the dough - depending on the age of your spices they will have different intensities.
:: If you find that your cookies are creating crease like cracks in the top, it means your mixture is too dry. Try one of two solutions: whilst on the baking tray, place your cut out cookies back into the freezer to seize the cookie dough once again before baking. A fiddly, yet more effective, solution is to place the dough back into your mixing bowl, add more moisture (such as milk) to your mixture & combine on a slow speed with electric beaters.
:: For gifts, birthdays & special occasions, I place the gingerbread cookies into a cello bag & tie it with a matching ribbon – what a great way to make a simple cookie a little more presentable.

:: dry ingredients ::
:: delicious dough - ready to be rolled ::
:: rolling out to the perfect thickness - then into the freezer ::

Quick Kitchen
:: I have prepared the dough up to two days in advance, keeping it well covered in cling wrap in the fridge. Simply take the dough out of the fridge & sit on the bench top at least an hour before rolling. I find that it does produce a dryer dough, so make a more “wet” batch if this is your intention. Always check the consistency of the mixture before baking to prevent cracks (see above in kitchen notes).
:: I also use Queens Vanilla Bean Paste for my cookies, available from all good supermarkets in the baking section.

:: decorating Christmas fun with coloured Royal Icing ::
:: "mummy & me" - decorating efforts ::

Little Larder
:: When making this recipe for the kids, I halve the amount of the dried ginger ingredient so there is only a hint of the spiced flavouring. They find this non-offensive & more enjoyable. If you are also tentative about ginger, add it in 1 tsp amounts & taste the dough as you go.
:: For the kids to decorate the cookies, see my basic Royal Icing Recipe & Little Larder tips.

:: just some of a double batch - before being decorated with my Royal Icing ::

Recipe Doubled for birthdays, gifts & guests
250g butter, softened
cup brown sugar
cup golden syrup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp of vanilla bean paste or seeds of 2 vanilla beans
4 cups plain flour
cup self-raising flour
2 Tbs ground ginger
2 tsp bicarbonate soda

:: matching my cookies to a birthday invite - by Sajaro Occasional Stationary ::

:: Merry Christmas to everyone - love Megann's Kitchen ::

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to everyone who reads & follows Megann’s Kitchen – your loyal support makes this adventure so rewarding… THANK YOU ALL!!!

:: A Royal Recipe ::

Basic Royal Icing
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: making planetary cookies - swirling colours & finishing with glitter ::

Royal Icing is quite beautiful & not to mention delicious. It adds a sugary, hardened crunch to semi-sweet cookies, cupcakes & cakes with magnificent results. I also love the creativity that you can generate with different techniques, colours & decorations.
The cookies featured are made with my Vanilla Bean & Gingerbread recipe - perfect for a novelty cookie of your choice.

The Royal Icing
1 egg white, lightly whisked
2 cups (320g) pure icing sugar, sifted
1 Tbs lemon juice

To make the royal icing, place the egg white in a small bowl & beat with electric mixer/beaters until well aerated. Gradually adding the icing sugar ½ a cup at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the lemon juice (or any flavourings) & any additional water, stirring until a thick & creamy consistency. Add desired colours. Fit a piping bag with a No. 4 plain nozzle. Spoon the icing into the prepared bag. Pipe icing onto each gingerbread figure and decorate. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the icing to set.

:: cookies for an Owl Themed Party for a hoot of a time ::

Kitchen Notes
:: For chocolate icing, leave out the lemon juice & add 1 Tbs sifted cocoa powder.
:: For vanilla icing, add 1tsp-2tsp pure vanilla extract.
:: If wanting to create a layered effect of colours & flavours, allow the icing to set before adding different layers of icing on top. If not properly dry, the colour will bleed into the other or emerge into other icings.
:: I am in LOVE with edible glitter for novelty cookies… it adds a festive touch for any special occasion, especially Christmas! It can be expensive, but you only require a little. Available at all good specialty baking & decorating stores.

:: kids love to squeeze out a little creativity ::

Little Larder
:: Kids just adore decorating with friends, allowing their creative minds soar. I portion out royal icing into small bowls & choose a variety of colours. I then place the icing into disposable icing bags, sealing it off with a rubber band so it doesn’t emerge out the wrong end. Snip a tiny section off the ends off the icing bag, place a wet wipe at the bottom of a plastic cup (to prevent drying) & place the icing bags tip down into each one. I grab a selection of sprinkles for them to choose from, creating a super cool decorating station, & let the creativity begin…  Oh, & keep those wipes handy!

:: cookies for a "by the Waters Edge" - nautical themed party ::

Quick Kitchen
:: Royal Icing can also be purchased in a packet mix, such as Queen brand, available from all good supermarkets in the baking section & specialty baking stores.
:: Disposable icing bags, such a the Multixbrand, can also be purchased from supermarkets & specialty baking stores.

:: "Ruldolf the red nosed reindeer" Christmas Cookies ::

:: iced & packaged - ready for hungry party guests to eat now or take-away ::

Enjoy decorating your cookies as much as we do here in Megann's Kitchen!

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