Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Cookie of the Week - Gingerbread Boys

I bought my Betty Crocker cookbook in 1980. It is the 1974 edition and showing its age. Not only are some of the ingredients outmoded, the names of some of the recipes are definitely non-PC. For instance, the recipe for gingerbread cookies is called "Gingerbread Boys".

Comparing this recipe to the one I made last year, really shows up its age. Shortening instead of butter, no egg versus 1 egg, ¾ teaspoon of salt (yikes!) compared to ¼ teaspoon, ungreased baking sheet versus greased baking sheet. Betty’s version was also more difficult to roll out. The dough is very sticky.

The cookies came out perfectly. When all was said and done, I have to admit that Betty won the taste test hands down. This is the way to make gingerbread boys (and girls).

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Gingerbread Boys
(Source: Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 1974 ed.)

½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
½ cup dark molasses
¼ cup water
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour*
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon soda
¾ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Candied cherries or red gumdrops
String licorice
Decorators’ Icing

Cream shortening and sugar. Blend in molasses, water, flour, salt, soda, ginger, nutmeg and all-spice. Cover; chill 2 to 3 hours.

Heat oven to 375°. Roll dough ¼ inch thick on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut with gingerbread boy cutter; place on ungreased baking sheet.

Press raisins into dough for eyes, nose and buttons. Use bits of candied cherries and strips of citron and string licorice for other trims. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheet. Cool. Trim with Decorators’ Icing.

About fifteen 4-inch cookies.

*If using self-rising flour, omit salt and soda. If using quick-mixing flour, add 3 tablespoons milk.

Note: For crisper cookies, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Bake 8 minutes. About 2 dozen cookies.

Recycle: molasses bottle

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Healthy Thanksgiving

OldRoses’ Brined Turkey
Mushroom-Wild Rice Stuffing
Easy Roasted Potatoes
Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Cranberry-Orange Relish
Whole Wheat Bread
Rustic Pear Pie

In searching for a theme for our Thanksgiving meal this year, we took note of the effort of our First Lady, Michelle Obama, to encourage healthy eating habits especially among children. We surfed the web and scoured our cookbooks for healthy alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving menu. We hope that our meal will inspire our readers to consider dishes with less salt, fat and calories for their own holiday meals.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas Cookie of the Week - Snickerdoodles

I started my holiday baking early this year because … does anyone really need a reason to start their holiday baking early? Maybe it’s because of all the pre-Thanksgiving Black Friday sales that it feels like the Christmas season is upon us.

Christmas cookie baking was not a tradition in my family, so I am unfamiliar with a lot of the traditional recipes. I saw this recipe on the Martha Stewart site last year, but ran out of time before I could try it out. So I bookmarked it for this year. I just liked the name.

I was kind of at loose ends this weekend, craving something sweet but feeling too lazy to bake anything complicated. Cookies came to mind, then Christmas cookies and Snickerdoodles popped up. It seemed like an easy and fun recipe to try.

A and I recently attended a cooking class sponsored by Taste of Home. One of the things I learned was that the difference between parchment paper and wax paper is that parchment paper has more paper than wax and wax paper has more wax than paper. I’ve been substituting wax paper for years because it’s what I have on hand. I’m more confident now in my substitution and didn’t hesitate to line my cookie sheets with wax paper rather than Martha’s recommended parchment paper.

She doesn’t say whether the butter should be softened or not, so relying on my years of baking experience, I softened the butter before using it. It didn’t affect the end result at all that I can tell.

Martha, perfectionist that she is, uses an ice cream scoop to form balls of dough. My ice cream scoop is like the ones used by “professional” ice cream scoopers rather than the round ones favored by Martha and her ilk. So I just used a spoon to scoop out small amounts of dough which I then hand rolled as I do for meatballs. Balls of batter are much more fragile than balls of meat, so they lost some of their shape, becoming a bit bumpy, when I rolled them in the cinnamon sugar. Fear not! They baked into attractive round cookies which did indeed spread quite a bit as they cooked.

I’m a much lazier cook than Martha, so I couldn’t be bothered with two baking sheets on different racks in the oven, rotating them halfway through their baking times. I baked my cookies one dozen at a time, one cookie sheet at a time in the middle of the oven and they came out perfectly.

As for the taste, well, that’s a little difficult because I’ve never tasted a Snickerdoodle before. I can say that I don’t care much for the taste of the cream of tartar and the amount of cinnamon needed to counteract that taste is too much. I felt like I had overdosed on cinnamon after eating only one cookie.

Verdict: Not bad, but I won’t be making this one again.


2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup pure vegetable shortening
1 ¾ cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400°F, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, shortening, and 1 ½ cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ¼ cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small (1 ¼-ounce) ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after 5 minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Makes 4 dozen.

Recycle: cream of tartar and cinnamon bottles

Compost: eggshells