Saturday, 21 December 2013

Ginger(bread) Cookies

Yesterday's post had to do with the upcoming christmas (or the holiday of your particular beliefs). I made gingerbread cookies from scratch, using a recipe that is very finnish - to me at least. I had a blast and I even got Mr. Engineer to have a go at cutting the shapes and he seemed to enjoy himself.

"Why do you have the bread in parentheses?" Because I had to do a lot of research about a few of the ingredients and while doing that I read about gingerbread cookies in general and turns out that what I call gingerbread cookies are just ginger cookies, according to some sources. But to me these are gingerbread cookies and they always will be. So let's get going shall we!

Gingerbread cookies, finnish edition: 
3/4 dl             dark syrup 
1 dl                white sugar
125 g             butter or baking margarine

1 tsp              cinnamon
1 tsp              ground ginger
1 tsp              ground cloves
1 tsp              ground bitter orange
1                    egg
1 tsp              bicarbonate of soda
250 g             flour

Now.. The first problem is the first ingredient: dark syrup. I translated it straight from finnish but seems to be no such ingredient in the english speaking world. So naturally I started to look around the internet.

Photo by DanSukker
Above is the product I used. It's dark brown, bitter and sticky. Not good on it's own but excellent in baking and cooking. But the "international equivalent" is not easy. My suggestions: treacle/molasses or golden syrup. Treacle looks a lot darker but based on what I read it seems to fulfill the qualities. Golden syrup is milder in flavour, lighter and sweeter but I believe it would do the job just fine.

The second problem is with the spices.

The dark brown one is the cloves, the darker of the two above that is ground ginger and the lightest of the bunch is the bitter orange. To that I couldn't find anything to replace it, I just hope that you can find it if you decide to try this.

On with the recipe. Melt your butter in a saucepan over about medium heat. This whole thing will be made in the saucepan so don't whip out the smallest you have, get a big one, one that holds 2,5 to 3 litres so that you have room to mix. Once you butter is melted add in the syrup, sugar and spices. Allow the mixture to come up to a gentle bubble stirring constantly. I recommend a wooden utencil for this recipe.

After you see the first bubble you can take the saucepan off the heat and allow to cool slightly so you can add the egg without cooking it when it hits the mixture. I like to break up my egg in a glass with a fork before adding it. Mix together the bicarbonate of soda an flour and add them in to the mixture after the egg is mixed in completely. The flour can take its time to mix in so don't give up easily.

After a few turns you'll fell like this is going nowhere.

Almost there, keep stirring.

Finally ready! At this point you'll be thinking "how am I supposed to roll this out, it's too soft are you nuts". Relax, you aren't supposed to. The mixture needs to be wrapped up in plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight. Not only will it solidify but the spices will take over the whole dough.

This is the same dough after a night in the fridge. Mine looks huge, but that's because I made a double batch. Now you want to preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Roll out your dough to be about 3 mm thick, or I should say thin because that's what it will be. Don't try to roll out the whole dough at once, take your time.

Yours truly in action. We had a hard time trying to get a decent picture, this is the one with the least amount of motion. You can cut out as many shapes as your dough sheet will fit, then take off the excess, transfer the cut cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roll out the excess again but only a few times. If you don't have or you just hate your cookie cutters you can cut a desired shape out of paper and cut the dough with a knife. Just make sure you don't cut out anything too skinny or you'll risk burning them.

Engineer hand! Can you see all the little black dots in the dough? That's the spices.

Baking the cookies doesn't take long at all. Bake them on the top rack of your oven for 4-6 minutes depending on the size and thickness soo keep a close eye on them. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet before transferring them anywhere because they will be very soft once out of the oven.

All done! I like my gingerbread cookies thin, crispy and slightly more pale than you'd think. The snowflake and the little gingerbread man are my favourite. You can have them plain or decorate with royal icing or just make a thick mixture with icing sugar and water and pipe or spoon that on. And this would also be fun holiday project do the with children! Cutting and decorating the cookies will keep them busy.

I want to hear your experience if you try this. And if you're a non-nordic person which would you use: treacle or golden syrup and what do you consider to be gingerbread cookies? Am I totally off with this? Let me know in the comments below.

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