Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thanksgiving : A Six Pound Souvenir

 Gingerbread folk for my friend Nolan's sixth annual Rock Band party.

My visit back home was fulfilling, with emphasis on the filling part. The spread at Thanksgiving alone would have been enough to make me cringe at returning to Singapore, where it's bikini season all year long.

 Sifting the dry ingredients.

I made velvet cake for the three family birthdays in November, coffee cake, Alton Brown's gingerbread folk, and Cheryl Smith's onion tart.  The cakes are from previous entries, the onion tart is best saved for another day. Right now is the time for gingerbread.

 Shortening and butter making friends.

Fats and sugars beaten to a grainy, fluffy finish.

I made the gingerbread folk cookies not only for Thanksgiving, but for my oldest friend's sixth annual Rock Band party as well. Decorating them is tons of fun, until your hand starts cramping from squeezing all that royal icing out of a pastry bag or cornet.

 Folding in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Gingerbread Folk Cookies
Adapted from Alton Brown's Gingerbread Cookies 101 at The Food Network
Yields a whole mess of cookies, in the 100+ range if using a 1" cookie cutter

3 1/4 C (325 g)  all-purpose flour
1 tsp  baking powder
1 1/2 tsp  cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp  ginger
1 tsp  all spice
1 tsp  cloves
1/2 tsp  salt
1/4 tsp  black pepper
1 stick (115 g)  butter
1/4 C (55 g)  shortening
1/2 C packed (110 g)
     brown sugar
2/3 C (230 g)  molasses
1  egg


All ingredients are at room temperature unless otherwise stated.
Top right: Floured dough on parchment paper.
Bottom right: Rolled and cut dough.
  1. Combine all the dry ingredients and sift or whisk to combine and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, cream together the shortening and butter until homogeneous.
  3. Add the sugar to the fats and beat fluffy.
  4. Add the molasses and egg and beat until combined.
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients.
  6. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or place it in a gallon size seal-able bag and press flat to remove all air.
  7. Refrigerate the dough over night.
  8. The following day: Preheat the oven to 350F (177C). Work with half the dough at a time. Lay out parchment paper and lightly flour the surface, place the dough on top, flour again, and top with another layer of parchment.
  9. Roll out the dough between the parchment to 1/8 to 1/4 inch (about 3 to 6 mm) thick, re-flouring to keep the dough from sticking to the parchment at necessary.
  10. Dip your cutter in flour, tap it to remove the excess, and cut into the dough. Wiggle the cutter slightly before removing it from the rolled out dough to make cut-out removal extra easy.
  11. Repeat step 10 until the rolled dough is completely cut, place cut-outs on a greased cookie sheet (it's okay to place them as close as 1/4 inch as they don't expand much).
  12. Regroup the remaining dough and repeat steps 8 through 11.
  13. Bake cookies 6-10 minutes, depending on the size, thickness, and desired firmness when cool.
  14. Cool completely before decorating with royal icing.
  15. Enjoy!
 Gingerbread folk ready to be baked.
    Gingerbread Folk Reflections
    I baked my approximately 3/8" thick, 1" cut-outs for 6 minutes for a medium-firm cookie, and received praise for the texture, flavor, and cuteness of my veritable army of gingerbread folk.

    Mini rockers ready to be consumed by the masses.

    I tried out two recipes for the royal icing: a traditional icing with egg whites and an icing without raw egg (I feared I might somehow make the three-years and under crowd ill at Thanksgiving, see JazzyCake's entry). I preferred the traditional royal icing; I found that I could get it to a much nicer consistency with less work and the end color was a much brighter white than the egg-less version. I did have issues with peaks once I lifted my piping bag away from the cookies, but that's easily remedied by beating the whites to a less firm peak in the future.

    Guitars made of royal icing take practice. For cleaner looking gingerbread folk, be sure to brush away any excess flour before baking.

    Gingerbread folk are fun to decorate, but I think I'll enlist the help of the wee little boys that ate the majority of the cookies at Thanksgiving for the next round. Another thing I'd like to keep in mind for next year is eating reasonably when I'm home to avoid packing a six pound souvenir from my short trip back to the States.

    The only picture I got of the gingerbread folk made for Thanksgiving was at the end of the night. There were few survivors. Though a little more buttoned-up than the Rock Band crowd, these gingerbread folk held their own during the holiday.

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