Day 5: 12 Steps to Gingerbread Success + a Cake Recipe
Posted by loavesandstitches
1. Collect fun and appropriate cookie cutters. This new set that I got from the boys for my birthday is my new favorite.
I have also been on a wee little cookie cutter shopping spree lately. For some reason, I just cannot seem to stop myself from buying them.
2. Make all the dough in one go. This week, I made 20 pounds of gingerbread dough. Getting some little people to help is a good idea here, but keep an eye on them. They have a tendency to do unexpected things, like lick their fingers! For gingerbread that is intended for building, I use this recipe. I find it a bit dry for eating, though, so I make different recipe for eating. This changes from year to year.
3. Roll the dough between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper. I use wax because it is cheaper, but you must take care with it later (see step 6). Yes, I am telling you to roll out your dough while it is soft. It is much easier this way, trust me. I spent a few years rolling out refrigerated dough and my arms and wrists have never forgiven me. Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick for nice sturdy cookies for building, or thinner if they are for eating.
4. Stack your sheets of gingerbread on a baking pan and freeze (see photo above). You can do steps 1-4 several weeks in advance.
5. Remove dough from freezer and let stand while the oven preheats. You do not want the dough to thaw; you just want to take the edge off of the chill so that you don’t hurt yourself trying to cut it. The sheets might have stuck together a little. Don’t worry. Just slide your hand gently between the layers and they should come apart pretty easily.
6. Using one sheet of gingerbread at a time, peel off the paper from one side carefully. Here is where parchment is better. Parchment has never torn on me, but wax paper occasionally does when the dough is super cold. To remedy this, just rub your hands over the paper to warm it up a bit before peeling. After the first sheet is peeled, lay it back on top and, while grasping both sheets with hands on opposite sides, carefully flip the whole thing over to its other side. Don’t skip the flip! it will make removing your cookies much easier if both sides of the paper have been peeled off. You could dispense with the paper and cut directly on your counter, but I prefer to keep things cleaner and cut on the paper. Carefully peel the other sheet of paper off the dough.
7. Cut your gingerbread! This is where the kids can come back into the action.
8. Bake. For building, I like to make sure my dough gets really dry. I bake it on convection mode at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. If I am baking for eating, I bake it for 8-10. Look at my new four tier baking pan holder. It’s fabulous for saving counter space!
9. Set aside the scraps in a bowl and work through all the rest of your frozen dough. The scraps will soften. When you are all done baking, they should be fairly soft and you can re-roll them. At this point, I stick them back into the freezer and resume baking another day, or, if I am in a hurry, I wait an hour and repeat steps 4-8.
10. Get some friends together. Gingerbread is always more fun with friends, especially if someone else is bringing the frosting and candy for decorating.
11. Decorate. Expect the unexpected here; pieces break, but icing is a wonderful glue.
12. Eat or Admire.
Are cookies not your thing? I must say, after going through 20 pounds of gingerbread, sometimes the last thing I want is a cookie. But, cake? Yes please! Especially if it is this Chocolate Swirl Gingerbread Cake. This is my favorite gingerbread cake. I have been known to sit on the floor in the kitchen and just eat the batter. Yes. It is That. Good.
Chocolate Marbled Gingerbread
adapted from Essence of Chocolate
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup mild unsulphured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces all purpose flour)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a Pinch each of ground cloves, ground black pepper, and ground cayenne pepper
1 cup, packed (7ounces) brown sugar
1 large egg
4 3/4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare either a 13 by 9 inch pan or two 8 or 9 inch round pans by spraying with Baker’s Joy or another spray with flour in it. I used one 8 inch and one 9 inch pan.
Bring water to a boil in a small pot or large 4 cup measuring cup in the microwave. Stir in the molasses and baking soda. Let cool until lukewarm.
Sift all dry ingredients into a medium bowl.
Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and mix for another minute, scraping the bowl as you go along. While mixing on low, add the flour and molasses mixture alternately. If it is still lumpy, finish mixing with a large whisk. This batter is really runny.
Pour 2/3 of the batter into your prepared pan, dividing if necessary. Whisk the melted chocolate into the remaining third in your mixing bowl. Add the chocolate batter to the pans by dropping 5-6 large pools of chocolate batter evenly spaced into the pan(s). Draw a skewer or knife through the batter a couple of times to make it pretty.
Bake 35-45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans on racks. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.