It's never too early to start your Christmas baking! Especially if you're like me and you want to do up some fun homemade gifts of your baked goods. These freeze well if you plan to make them ahead. And I highly recommend that you do start baking early and store up your supply as the Christmas season gets hectic. Devote some time early to baking, and then you get to enjoy relaxing AND eating treats later too!
As for these cookies, I am in love with gingerbread. You can get as creative as you want with decorating. I kept mine pretty simple this year - but have also enjoyed experimenting with chocolate, chocolate chips, candy pieces, and/or frosting! Also, depending on your cookie-cutter size, you may have a different yield.
Enjoy getting into the Christmas spirit. I also won't tell anyone if you start listening to Christmas music - December is only a couple weeks away!
Gingerbread Men Cookies
Adapted from simplyrecipes.com
Makes approximately 16 (5 inch) cookies.
3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature, softened)
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1 TBSP ground ginger
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 3/4 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add sugar and beat until fluffy.
Mix in eggs and molasses. Gradually add the flour mixture; combine on low speed.
Divide dough in thirds; wrap each third in plastic.
Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Before rolling out, let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.
If after refrigerating the dough feels too soft to roll-out, work in a little more flour.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place a third of the dough on a large piece of lightly floured parchment paper or wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate again for 5-10 minutes to make it easier to cut out the cookies.
Use either a cookie cutter or place a stencil over the dough and use a knife to cut into desired shapes. Press raisins, chocolate chips, or candy pieces in the center of each cookie if desired for "buttons".
Transfer to ungreased baking sheets. Bake until crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit a few minutes and then use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired.
Beat egg whites and lemon juice together, adding the powdered sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
If the icing is too runny, add more powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency. Fill a piping bag with the icing to pipe out into different shapes. (Or use a plastic sandwich bag, with the tip of one corner of the bag cut off.) Keep the icing covered while you work with it or it will dry out.