On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Gingerbread Cookies with faces

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FacesI’m really enjoying decorating cookies. Last Christmas was the first time I really got involved in cookies. While I’ve not spent a lot of time over the last 12 months decorating cookies, it’s something that I often want to get back to doing.

This weekend I didn’t have any plans for cakes while meant I was free to tinker about.

Last weekend I stumbled across SweetSugarBelle’s recipe for her favourite Gingerbread. It had been my plan to bake these cookies until I spotted her recipe for Orange Gingerbread. Yum!

I made the cookie dough Thursday evening. It was very soft, just like the recipe said. I wish I knew what the dough was meant to look like. I worried mine was too soft but how would I know? I had nothing to compare to.

What I did like about the dough being this soft was being able to more or less spread it out onto waxed paper. This would make it significantly easier for me to roll, after all the job was mostly done.1311_Gingerbread cookie dough-2-2

Even though the dough had been in the fridge for 24 hours, it was still soft. It had firmed but by the time I had rolled and then cut shapes (3 trays) the dough has softened so much that it was just about impossible to work with. I couldn’t for the life of me get the cut shape pulled away from the surrounding dough. I was almost beside myself with frustration. I got to the point I figured I’d have to toss the dough back into the mixer and add more flour to it.

I had managed to get one tray of cut shapes and the extra dough had been re-rolled. I grabbed my Angel cutter (thanks Mum!) and floured the cutter. I’d not done that with the 3 trays already cut out and put back into the fridge to firm up. What I noticed was how much easier the Angels came away from the surrounding dough. It was enough to give me hope that all was not lost. I got to re-cutting the shapes I’d made with the floured cutter and was now putting the dough into the freezer.

I’m not going to lie, it was still a very fiddly and delicate process, but it was working give or take. I was able to pull away the surrounding dough easier and ease the shapes off the waxed paper (I swapped to baking paper, a safe guard in case I couldn’t get the cookies off, I could at least just shove the whole lot, as is, into the oven). The cookies baked for 7 minutes before I turned the tray away and then cooked a further 2 minutes.

This was the first time I cut dough without a cutter. I know it’s not an alarming event, but it was something I’d not done before. Add to that I modified a cookie shape, it was a night for all out kitchen adventure.

I used my ornament cutter but then used a small egg shape cutter to lop off the pointed end of the ornament to make a nice rounded oval shape.

I had seen these cookies on SweetSugarBelle’s blog and I was going to try my hand at them.

It wouldn’t have hurt me to re-look at the faces again. I’m way off on the eyelashes. And talking of eyelashes. I made an absolute mess of the one girl (far left). I covered it up by applying more of the same flesh coloured royal icing over top, but as you can see, it’s still hideous. And none of the eyelashes are right. Oh well. There’ll be another time I’m sure, and I’ll learn from this experience 🙂Boys and Girls

The egg cutter was used for the boys faces. Because I’m really bad at piping lines I used another round cookie cutter and my PME scribe tool to mark the shape so that I could use it as a guide when I piped the icing. I did this one the girls faces also. It worked well.

The royal icing I made last weekend I didn’t like. This weekend I used the recipe off SSB’s website, but I replaced the Meringue powder with the egg albumen. I halved the recipe too. Because the recipe is in cups, I had to weigh out ¾ of a cup of egg albumen to work out what half of that would be in grams. So to save you the worry, it’s 33gm for a ½ recipe, or 66gm for the full.

So far I’m liking the royal icing. I’m finding it to be the best to move and coax into a more smooth curve or line or whatever the shape it is I’m trying to follow. What I did find is that it had softened overnight. When I made it, it was so stiff that even as I was shaking the whisk attachment it wasn’t budging the peaks of the meringue. The recipe said to whisk for 7-10 minutes but I had reached the right point (no pun intended) at 5 ½ minutes. Next time I’ll whisk longer so that the next morning (this assumes I’m not using it immediately) it’s still stiff enough that it’s “medium consistency”. Before going to bed (and it was very late thanks to the drama with the cookie dough) I had added orange juice (I used the juice from the orange that I used the zest for the cookie dough) to thin the RI out a bit. I felt it was still stiffer than what I really needed, but given it relaxed overnight it was perfect for 20 count flood consistency. The only down side was I didn’t have any medium consistency RI. I’ve had to add more icing sugar to the colours I need as medium consistency.

Last weeks batch of RI, also made with egg albumen, had a slightly weird taste. Adding the orange juice to thin this batch out overcame that, and adding more icing sugar also does the same trick, it masks that weird taste. So with a few tweaks to how long I whisk it, I think I’m about as close to getting the best RI I’ve used to date. And I’m very happy to have a recipe that works with egg albumen rather than meringue powder.

Back to the cookie dough. It really spreads. I mean look at these photos. What a shame. I all but lost every part of definition on the bear. This is a cookie cutter Yvonne bought back from Holland, and my first time using it.1311_Speading out-2-2

The 3.5” circles (to use to make snow globes like these from SweetAmbs) ended up larger than the next size cutter up. The first snow globe shapes I made were the ones that flatly refused to seprate from the waxed paper, in the end I had to place the shapes onto the Silpat upside down and then peel the waxed paper off the shapes. You can see that they’re pretty rough, no nice smooth surface from being rolled over. It wasn’t really a big deal given they’d be covered in RI. But you can see the difference between those early shapes, then those that I re-cut with a floured cutter.1311_Expansion-2-2

When I went to bed my mind wouldn’t stop working (plus I was feeling really sick) I wasn’t happy with the amount of spread and the loss of definition. I also wasn’t totally sure the cookies were cooked as much as the smaller shapes. I decided I would put them back into the oven in the morning which would also have the edges soften then trim them up. And it worked pretty well actually. I don’t have a photo of them because they’re in a state of half decoration. I had one last tray of cookies in the freezer. You know even having been in the freezer all night, they were still not frozen.

I have to say the cookies taste so nice baked. The dough unbaked had a strong orange taste, the orange essence (it has orange oil in it) was almost overpowering. But baked these cookies are so close to Griffins Gingernuts that if I were blindfolded I’d not have been able to tell the difference other than the consistency of the cookie. These aren’t quite so tough to bite into. They certainly have a crunch, but not that dense worry that you might actually break a tooth before you get the upper hand of a Griffins Gingernut. Or am I the only one that has those thoughts eating a Gingernut?

I had no guide or idea how I was going to decorate the “boys”. All I had to go on was the etched circle that I’d made to ensure I didn’t botch the icing. The easiest thing for me to do was to do what you see. Make winter hats.
Girls and Boys

Icing is a very slow process. When you’re not doing wet on wet you have to wait a sensible amount of time to let the colour dry before you add another colour next to it. This way there’s no running into the colour and can achieve a more 3D/texture.

Decorating cookies isn’t really for those who don’t have patience, and an ability to leave enough alone. It drove me nuts. I just wanted to get on with it. Even when I thought I’d waited long enough, it still wasn’t long enough. The little white nonpareils still adhered to the blue “hats” even though they showed no sign of being wet. Using a soft brush to sweep the white should have knocked them off, but they seemed to be stuck by some invisible glue.

Despite some ooops moments they’re not too bad, and they were kinda fun to decorate.

I’m looking forward to finishing the snow globes tomorrow. I’m itching to them finished but I have to wait for the RI gingerbread men to completely dry out. As you can imagine, I’ve tested “doneness” several times during the course of the day and I’ve managed to crack one (I made spares) in testing, so I’ve resigned myself to this being tomorrow’s activity.

As for the Orange Gingerbread recipe, I made some changes:

  • Swapped molasses for golden syrup
  • Swapped brown sugar for Muscovado sugar
  • Used 1/8 teaspoon of ground white pepper (noticeable in raw dough, not baked)
  • I only have normal Crisco (who knew there were differences?) so added 1 teaspoon of Lorann Butter emulsion

I’m going to tinker with the recipe. I love the flavour, but I’ll cry if I have to work with that consistency again, and I’m not fond of the amount of spread. I’ll go to the Lila Lola recipe I’ve used and combine the spices, swap the all sugar for the sugars and golden syrup and add more flour. I’m ditching the baking soda in place of the baking powder in Lila Lola’s Vanilla Variation Cookie recipe.

Watch this space!

And in case you’ve been sceptical about colouring RI with red and black and never seeming to reach the right depth, you’ve probably heard that the colours intensive over time (usually a couple of hours minimum), well here’s the black. I used Sugarflair Liquorice (love Sugarflair, I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before) which made this lovely dove grey, and then this is the colour after it has sat the rest of the day. It’s a bit hard to see clearly through the Gladwrap so you’ll have to take my word for it. It’s black.1311_The passage of time-2-2

Ooh, here’s a couple of “bonus” photos. Here’s the RI corner of the kitchen bench. So many disposable bags. I think 7, plus there’s a couple of Gladwrapped “packages” of RI in the tea towel. Check out how many face clothes I’m using to help keep the RI from drying out. Go me!Kitchen mess

And just when you think you’ve finally reached the end, here’s Santa Mark II. I’m undecided about his legs. His body isn’t attached to the legs so I’ve got time to change them for shorter thicker legs. I just don’t know if I will. I find the shoes really difficult. I don’t know if I want to subject myself to a third pair. I’ll leave making a decision so long that I’ll just attach his body. What a cop out 😉

Santa Mark II

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5 thoughts on “Gingerbread Cookies with faces

  1. Hi, I was wondering if you could please help me. Stumbled upon your blog looking for a dark gingerbread cookie NZ recipe. I need my cookies to be dark, much like they are here to make a certain character. I didn’t use the 2012 recipe you wrote (and every other recipe on Google) because I know I wouldn’t be a fan of the bitter taste as well. I’m trying to follow the Orange gingerbread recipe however I’m a little confused by some of the ingredients. I’ve never heard of some of them before and am not sure if I can find them in a NZ supermarket (e.g. Crisco). Which recipe could I use where I find all the ingredients (or substitue others) in the supermarket and the cookies come out looking dark?
    Thanks and Merry Christmas!

    • Hi Anna, thanks for leaving a comment. I’ve looked at that recipe and the only thing you can’t readily bet at the supermarket in NZ is the Crisco. Just replace it with butter. Kremelta would have been the next thing closest but it’s not the same texture, I think you’d be best to stick with butter. You can buy molasses at the Supermarket, Chelsea makes this. Billingtons is the brand that makes Dark Muscavado sugar, that’s what I used in place of the dark brown sugar, again you can get this at the supermarket. I’ve bought it before from Countdown and New World. And Orange extract might be the only thing that’s difficult to get. New World often has some citrus oils in the baking section (but not all New World stores I’ve discovered). I buy my extract from a specialty store. Extract is a more intense, true flavour to an “essence”, but the essence would still give you some flavour. Hope that helps. Merry Christmas to you too!

      • Thank you so much Anita! I really appreciate your reply at this busy time of the year. I’ll go out and buy the ingredients today. I’ll let you know how I get on with the finished product. Don’t expect anything too fancy 😉

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