Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gingerbread Cookies

This is one of my favorite treats of all time. This recipe is based on one found in an 18th Century cookbook. I first had these cookies when I took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg with Mama in 1984. We spent several days up there and got some of these "Ginger Cakes" at the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. We both fell in love with them. Before we headed home Mama made me go with her to the bakery to stock up on treats for everyone. The people thought we were nuts. She spent over a hundred dollars and we came out of there with bags and bags and bags of cookies, breads, and other treats! Traveling with Mama was always an adventure. Remind me to tell you about recipe swapping in New Orleans sometime!

Anyway, here's the recipe I use for my Gingerbread Cookies (or as they were properly called Ginger Cakes) - they're always a hit!
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup evaporated milk (Original recipes used cream... I've used both)
1 cup unsulfered molasses
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
4 cups stone-ground or unbleached flour, unsifted

Combine the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Mix well. Add the melted butter, evaporated milk and molasses. Add the extracts. Mix well. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly. The dough should be stiff enough to handle without sticking to fingers. Knead the dough for a smoother texture. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking. When the dough is smooth, roll it out ¼ inch thick on a floured surface and cut it into cookies. I use a demitasse cup or small wineglass just like they did back then. Bake on floured or greased cookie sheets (or use a silicone baking mat) in a preheated 375° F oven for 10 to 12 minutes. The gingerbread cookies are done when they spring back when touched.

Mmm, mmm! Don't that sound good? Now here's the secret to this recipe... liquid smoke. See, the folks at Williamsburg still use the old wood fired ovens to bake these. That smoke gives a little extra spice to the spices! It's something that if you've never had it you won't miss, but I promise you putting a drop or two of liquid smoke in the mix with will make your cookies stand out!

After you let those cookies cool you can also take this recipe a step further and glaze these beauties! If you don't feel like a glaze just dust them with some powdered sugar.

I use either a lemon or orange glaze for mine. It's really simple to make and we'll refer to this recipe often since Mama used is a quick topping for lots of baked goods:
Glaze Ingredients:

Confectioner's Sugar
Lemon (or Orange) Juice

Just mix those two things up in a little bowl adding sugar or juice as needed to get a mixture a little thicker than syrup. Then you just drizzle over your cookies with a spoon or fork and let it set. (If you need them quick you can stick the glazed cookies in the fridge for a bit to speed up the process.)

Now here's the caution with that glaze. You can't leave these out for days in the heat or the glaze will melt into goo on the bottom of the plate! So eat 'em quick! But that won't be a problem!

(photo by Nathanborror)


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