Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The 12 Days of Christmas #2

I have a problem with food. Here's the thing: my family used to think highly of my cooking. They would ooh and aah over my creations. They would turn to me to bake something yummy. And then something happened about 10 years ago to change all of that.
This dude appeared and married my sister. Just look at him with his homemade pizza dough with red onions and fennel and sweet potatoes and sausage and some funky cheese and a light olive drizzle all grilled to perfection on a ... grill. And his brownies with some ganache topping with pink sea salt to add a little punch that still tingles in my mouth even though it was a year ago that I tasted these delicacies. He rocked my family's view of the world of food upside down. So now I'm the one that can be counted on for crock pot roast beef and homemade mashed potatoes and fatty gravy and maybe some store-bought white bread with store-bought jelly if you're lucky.
However, what really caused this food situation to reach the boiling point were his Christmas cookies that were so meticulously decorated with such unique colors that you almost did not want to eat them for fear you would never see something so beautiful in your life. Please note: these cookies shown above are not his cookies; these are my vain attempt to copycat him last year. The situation improved slightly in February with my oddly orange-ish valentines.
The situation for this Christmas started out looking pretty grim with this creepy anatomically uncorrect gingerbread goth.
But I kept on keeping on, saving the Christmas trees for the kids to help me decorate,
and letting them take part in a few sprinkle garnishments prior to baking some of the cookies.
Most of the work was done secretly, though, while the young ones were sleeping. I'm fairly pleased with the way things turned out.
Although I did not manage to achieve the smoky gray snowflakes with wisps of white coursing through them like my brother-in-law, Cookie Decorating Take #3 could have been much worse.
The kids even did a most excellent job with their sprinkle-dunking duties. They were so proud of these and that makes it all worth it. (I, however, was not proud of the tree trunk brown color that I created. Dear brother-in-law probably knows the proper colors to mix together to achieve such a thing, but I, being who I am, do not know these things.)
As an added bonus for the weekend (and for you!), I made these Moravian Gingerbread Crispy Wafer cookie things. If you're not stressed and your kids are in bed, try them! You'll like them!
Recipe taken from the Joy of Cooking cookbook (with snarky adaptations from yours truly):

1 cup all purpose flour
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp ground cloves
0.25 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp baking soda

Whisk all of that together and set aside. Then beat until well blended:

0.3333333 cup molasses
0.25 cup Crisco or lard
0.5 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Slowly stir flour mixture into molasses mixture, then knead until very smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Place in a cool spot (but not the refrigerator). The bottom of a drafty farmhouse door on a day where the temperature is projected to reach a high of minus 17 degrees works well, although the dough may freeze slightly in this condition as it sits on your living room floor. Cool in your chosen location for 6-12 hours.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (not 350 as I did).
Pour a glass of wine for yourself. Or make a margarita. Proceed with rolling the dough out on a well floured surface. Get it as thin as you can. Curse as the dough acts too wet and sticks to your rolling pin and then curse 10 seconds later as it acts too dry and cracks into tiny shards. Add flour or water as necessary. Cut cute shapes into it but, warning!: don't use shapes that have lots of appendages or curly-cue edges. Transfer to greased cookie sheet with thin spatula. Ball up the leftover dough as well as half of the shapes that you cut out but did not successfully transfer to said greased cookie sheets. Repeat the rolling process.

Bake for 6-8 minutes, maybe less. Do not overbake. They'll tase funky.

Smile as your kids enjoy eating the gingerbread people body part by body part. Enjoy the holidays. Be merry.

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