Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gingerbread Snowflakes

I can never resist when I see a pretty cookie idea, and these popped up just in time to be made as favors at a holiday dinner with a group of long time friends. In their December issue Sunset Magazine featured gingerbread snowflakes, and that first lovely picture was all the prompting I needed to get the mixer out. While I used the design from Sunset, we opted to try the Cooks Illustrated gingerbread cookie recipe from their 2011 holiday baking issue. This one recipe lets you make thick and chewy cookie or thin and crispy ginger snap cookie from the same dough, all you have to change is the thickness of the rolled dough and the baking time and temperature. As usual with a Cook's recipe, we were not disappointed. Our only challenge was trying to decide if we liked the soft thick cookies or the thin crispy ones best.

Thick or thin, these cookies had great ginger flavor and were really easy to make. Using a food processor for the dough made it a quick one bowl recipe, and the dough was pretty easy to work with. Although in our regular sugar cookie decorating we use royal icing, the chocolate glaze on these cookies goes really well with the ginger and spice, making for a delicious and slightly different take on the usual holiday cookies that come from our kitchen. 

Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
adapted: Cooks Illustrated Holiday Baking 2011

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces softened slightly
3/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons milk.

1. In food processor, process flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves together until combines. Scatter butter pieces over the flour and process until mixture is sandy, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk, process until dough is evenly moistened and forms a soft mass. (You could use a stand mixer instead of a food processor)

2. Scrape dough onto counter; divide in half. Working with 1 portion at a time roll to an even 1/4 inch thickness between 2 sheet of parchment paper. Leave dough between parchment paper and stack on baking sheet and freeze until firm, 15-20 minutes. Or refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.

3. Adjust oven rack to upper middle and lower middle positions. Heat oven to 350f. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

4. Remove one sheet of dough from freezer place on counter and peel off the top sheet of parchment. Flip the dough over and peel off the second sheet. Cut the dough into desired shapes and transfer to prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until cookies sheets are full. Bake cookies until centers are just set and dough barely creates an imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8-11 minutes, rotating sheet front to back, top to bottom halfway through baking. Do not over bake. Cool cookies in sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

5. Gather scraps together; repeat rolling, cutting and baking until all dough is used. We chilled our dough after re-rolling each time. 

* For thin crispy cookies roll dough 1/8 inch thick and bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes, until center is firm when pressed with finger*

Glaze, Outline and Decoration
Sunset Magazine December 2013
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon white corn syrup

For Glaze:
Put chocolate and butter in a large glass bowl. Melt in a microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring between each until mixture is smooth. Stir in the corn syrup. Let cool until it's body temperature and drizzles in a thick ribbon. (if it solidifies, microwave about 10 seconds and stir to liquefy).

For outline: Melt 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate until completely smooth. Pour into small parchment cone or zip lock bag with a tiny corner cut off.

Decoration: Melt 2 ounces white chocolate until smooth. Pour into small parchment cone or zip lock bag with a tiny corner cut off.

Parchment cones or zip bags are necessary, when the chocolate cools and becomes to hard to pipe, just zap it in the microwave for a few seconds until it is soft enough to use again.

Working with one cookie at a time, with the bittersweet chocolate pipe a boarder around your cookie. Using the glaze(I used a regular piping bag with a #4 tip) flood the center of your cookie. Shake or jiggle your cookie until the glaze is smooth. With the white chocolate, pipe a zig zag down the length of one arm of the snowflake quickly drag the tip of a  knife or a tooth pick through the zig zag, to the center of the cookie. Repeat zig zagging and dragging each arm of your snowflake. Try to work fairly fast; as the chocolate cools and sets it becomes more difficult to drag a smooth line without creating a lumpy mess in the dark chocolate. 
printable recipe

Sunset magazine has a video of the process and directions for making a parchment cone if you need it.

link:Foodie Friday