Thursday, December 24, 2009

One of my favorite things: Gingerbread Men

I love everything about gingerbread. I love mixing it, rolling it, and cookie-cutting it. I love baking it, cooling it, and eating it. But most of all, I love decorating it. Frosting cookies is one of my tip top favorite things ever. I love the actual frosting process (especially when you do it with people you love) and I love how the cookies look in the end. So making these cookies is like a Christmas present to myself.

They are very easy to make.

Start with your dry ingredients.
Then beat your butter and sugar.
Add in your egg and molasses, and beat that up.
Gradually add in the flour.
(did I mention I love this Kitchenaid Stand Mixer?)

And you will eventually have your dough.
Now, you are going to divide the dough in half, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it for at least 2 hours. I found that if you make the dough smooth at this point, it will prevent cracking when you roll it out.
Once it is sufficiently chilled, get excited... it is time to roll the dough out.
Grab the cookie cutters of your choice (gingerbread men, gingerbread ladies, and Christmas trees), and start cutting!
Remove the cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake until just brown around the edges. I prefer a softer gingerbread cookie, so I try to bake it until just lightly browning around the edges. And don't forget, the cookies will continue to bake after you take them out of the oven, so don't let them go too long.
While I very much enjoy gingerbread on its own with a glass of milk, as I mentioned, icing gingerbread is something I adore. So, for the icing, sift your confectioners' sugar.
Then whip up butter.
Add in vanilla.
And gradually add your powdered sugar, at low speed. Warning: if you do this at high speed, it will be like a powdered sugar bomb went off all over you. Go slow and low to avoid this.
Add in milk. Beat at high speed until the icing is gorgeous and fluffy.
Now time for some color!!! I went with red, green, blue, and orange this year (for Christmas and the Broncos, of course!).
It is easy to get colored frosting, you just add dots of color until it is the color you want.

You can ice with an offset spatula or a knife. Just get your gingerbread and bowls lined up.
However, if you want to pipe the frosting on and you do not have an icing bag, never fear! You can make your own. Grab a ziplock bag, and make a tiny snip on one of the corners. The smaller, the better.
Squeeze the frosting into that corner, and voila! a piping bag.
How fun, right?
At this point, let your creativity take over... and have fun! I know my mom and I did.
And with this... the Bicoastal Chefs would like to wish everyone a very happy holiday!

May all these days be filled with more than a few of your favorite things!

Gingerbread Men (from
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
Note: to prevent molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, first spray the cup with non-stick vegetable spray

For frosting:
2 cups confectioners' sugar sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
Assorted food coloring

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well incorporated. Gradually add flour mixture beating until incorporated.

Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or over night.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside while you roll out the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Use a gingerbread cutter to cut out the cookies. With an offset spatula lift the cut out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 8-12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute. When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

If desired, you can press raisins, currants, or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Otherwise, confectioner's frosting can be used.

For the frosting: With a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add a little more milk if too dry.

If desired, divide into bowls and add food coloring. To make your own pastry bag, get a ziplock bag and snip the corner. The tinier the snip, the better. Add the frosting, and you have a homemade pastry bag.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Very Merry Lemon Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

Ahh... Colorado at Christmas. You can cut down your own Christmas tree. You can watch the sun set behind snow-capped mountains. And you can use your mom's Kitchenaid stand mixer to make holiday baked goods. What a perfect place to spend the holidays!

For round one of Kitchenaid-stand-mixer-enabled-baking my mom and I made Lemon Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies. These delightful little cookies are thumbprint cookies with "the volume turned up" (to quote the Barefoot Contessa). Adding lemon zest and juice to the dough turns these cookies into something special. And the combination of the lemon with raspberry (as always) is just dynamite.

Not only do these cookies look like holiday cheer, they are perfect to make with another person. What more could you ask from a Christmas cookie?

To make them... You start with your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt.
Now, if you can get your hands on it, break out your Kitchenaid stand mixer and add your room temperature butter and sugar.
Sit back as the Kitchenaid does everything for you.
(I am so in love with this appliance)

Next, add in 2 egg yolks, vanilla, (and the stars...) lemon zest, and lemon juice.
Beat that all together, until you have a heavenly-scented dough.
Add the flour in 2 additions.
Try to mix it just until it forms moist clumps. As ever, overmixing makes for cookies are tough.
Gather the dough together in a ball.
Form pieces of the dough into balls slightly larger than 1 inch.
Then, take the back of a 1/2 teaspoon and make indentations in the balls of dough.
And then you have the perfect well!
Grab some good raspberry preserves, jam, or jelly.
And spoon those preserves into the cookies.
Doesn't this cookie look splendid?
Pop those in the oven and enjoy how delightful they make the house smell. Pull them out of the oven when they are golden brown and transfer them to a wire rack.
Pretty, festive, made with a Kitchenaid... what a perfect holiday cookie!

Lemon Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies (from Emeril Lagasse)
1/2 cup raspberry jam or jelly (or preserves)
1 Tablespoon Chambord or kirsch (we skipped this)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest*
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets.

In a small bowl, combine the jam and Chambord (if using). Stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer (or Kitchenaid with paddle attachment), beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather the dough together into a ball.

Pinch off the dough to form 1-inch balls**. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Use your floured index finger or 1/2 tsp measuring spoon to create depressions in the center of each ball. Fill each indentation with nearly 1/2 tsp of the jam.*** Bake until golden brown 16-20 minutes****.

Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

*1 medium-large lemon should be enough for the zest and juice
**We did slightly larger than 1-inch balls. If you make 1-inch balls, you can get 4 dozen small cookies. We got slightly over 2 dozen larger cookies.
***We used slightly more than 1/2 a tsp for each cookie
****While the recipe says 20 minutes, we found that at 18 minutes, the cookies were perilously brown.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Icing

Sometimes when cake recipes call for icing, I omit it. I think the cake should be good enough on its own. A word of advice to anyone thinking about making this cake, do not skip the lemon icing. The lemon icing takes what is a solid gingerbread cake and makes it a marvelous gingerbread cake. The spice from the gingerbread and the sour-sweet in the icing are just wonderful together.

And what could be more perfect for the holidays than a marvelous gingerbread cake?

This cake was pretty easy to make. Start with your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. And inhale all that deliciousness.
Starting with dry ingredients seems obvious, but sometimes I run across muffin or cake recipes that don't have you start with them. But, if you start with your wet ingredients, then all your measuring cups and spoons get wet and difficult to use. So, lesson learned: always start with your dry ingredients... even if that means not following the recipe exactly (gasp!).

Next, get your wet ingredients going. As ever with butter-cakes, it is crucial that you let your butter and eggs come up to room temperature. What makes a cake fluffy is air bubbles that are incorporated into the butter when you cream it with the sugar. And your air-incorporation is severely limited if your butter is cold. You want your eggs at room temperature so when you add them you don't deflate any of the air bubbles you incorporated into the butter. If you have a thermometer around, you know the butter is ready when it is around 70 degrees. Once the butter is at room temperature, add it and the brown sugar into a bowl.
And beat it for three minutes, at least. Get as many air bubbles going as you can. I (seriously) use a timer.
At the end, it should be light and fluffy.
Add in your eggs, one at a time,
and beat well after each addition.
Now, for some really exciting ingredients! Add in the zest of one lemon, but save the lemon (it is going into the to-die-for-icing).
And add in molasses. And start getting excited because molasses means gingerbread is on its way.
Mix that all up.
For the next part, you are going to alternate adding in the dry ingredients and the milk. You will want to start with the dry ingredients and end with the dry ingredients. You can beat this part with a hand mixer, but I like to stir it in. So get your assembly line together.
Add in the dry ingredients. Stir that up.
Add in the milk. Stir that up.
And continue alternating, until it is all done.
Pour the delicious batter into a greased and floured cake pan. And pop it in the oven.
A quick note about baking cakes in non-stick pans: if you are using a non-stick cake pan, lower the temperature by 25 degrees and bake for the length of time indicated in the directions. Non-stick pans get hotter than regular pans, so if you don't reduce the temperature, you run the risk of overbaking your cake.

You know it's done when a toothpick comes out clean.
Let it rest in the pan, and in the meantime, get brave... you have to flip the cake out of the pan. I like to put a plate over the cake and quickly flip it over. The quicker you flip it over, the less time you have to be nervous.
Once I turned the cake out this way, I flipped it again. I wanted a nice rounded top. To do this, once I had flipped the cake out of the pan onto a plate, I put another plate on the bottom of the cake. I then flipped the cake onto the second plate. And shockingly, nothing went wrong. Once it is out of the pan, transfer it to a wire rack, and let it cool completely.
Now, for this icing. You know, the one I was gushing over a few moments ago? It is so easy and it makes this cake worth writing about. Start by sifting your powdered sugar.
Then juice the lemon that you used the zest from. (And feel good that you have used just about every part of that lemon!)
Add the lemon juice into the powdered sugar.
Beat that up, and now we're talking.
Pour the icing into the middle of the cake.
Then spread the icing all the way to the edges.
Taking the cake to a party? Don't have a cake carrier? Try this: carry it in a cardboard box. Is your box too big? Secure the plate with folded up pieces of paper (and yes, these are copies of Plato). Cut down the side flaps, and there you have it, a fairly secure cake carrier (just don't take corners too quick!).
Whenever and wherever you have this cake...
get ready to have a slice of lemon-iced gingerbread cake wish you happy holidays.

Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Icing (from
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger (heaping)
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg (the recipe didn't call for this, but I couldn't resist)
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
1 cup milk

For the lemon icing:
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2-2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees** and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour a 9 x 2 inch cake pan.*** Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest and molasses and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients and milk, alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.**** Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan. Let cool completely and then frost with the lemon icing.

For lemon icing: mix together the sifted confectioners' sugar and lemon juice until smooth. (The icing should be thick but still spreadable). Pour the icing onto the center of the cake and spread with an offset spatula. Some of the icing will drip down the sides of the cake.

This cake will keep for several days at room temperature.

*I used 2 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
**If you are using a non-stick pan, lower the temperature by 25 degrees.
***I used a 9 x 1 1/2 cake pan and had no problems.
****40 minutes was perfect in my oven.