I feel like I’ve been MIA recently. I haven’t posted, haven’t commented, nothing for a few weeks. It wasn’t because I wasn’t thinking of all of you…I was. But I’ve been crazy busy. On top of work and the normal craziness, I had the pleasure of making favors for a friend’s wedding. And, since it was a fall theme, I had to incorporate gingerbread, cut into falling leaves, covered in orange royal icing!
I got the call back in May. A friend was getting married in September, and she needed help with her favors. She wanted to give something people could eat, and wanted it to tie to fall. And, to top it all off, red was her color. We went back and forth on what to do, looking at different treats and snacks, settling on cookies, but looking at large cutters, small cutters, different shapes and sizes, you name it. We finally settled on the gingerbread leaves, but adding a single sugar cookie heart with red royal icing. I think they turned out pretty well, and she was very pleased. Here’s how I made the leaves.
I searched and searched for the gingerbread cookie recipe, and I had several tries with different recipes. Ultimately, I turned to my master, Martha Stewart, and used her “Melissa’s Gingerbread Cookies” recipe from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. The cookbook came out in 1995, and I remember my mom getting it back then. Thankfully, I found a copy at a library sale a few months ago for $2! 🙂 The recipe makes a great dough, very easy to roll.
To start, combine 1 cup molasses, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 4 teaspoons ground ginger, and 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon in a bowl you can use as a double boiler. I just use a metal bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water. Heat this mixture until the sugar melts. Because of the amount of sugar, I was never able to get it completely melted, but I kept it on the heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until it was dark and smooth. Then, while still on the heat, add 3/4 tablespoon baking soda. Stir, and the mixture will bubble up and lighten in color. Remove from the heat, and add it to a large bowl with 2 sticks butter, at room temperature. Give this a good stir, combining and melting the butter with the sugar mixture, then let it sit to cool to 90 degrees (or warm to the touch). Once it’s cooled a bit, add 2 eggs, lightly beaten, and mix well. I used the mixer for this.
Once the eggs are mixed in, start to add the flour. Add 6 cups all-purpose flour, one cup at a time. You’ll want to let the mixer run before you add more. As Martha says, you don’t need to use a mixer, but it does make it easier. I did it by hand for the first batch I made, and the mixer was easier, but by hand really wasn’t bad.
Once the flour is incorporated, turn the dough onto a floured surface. Shape into a rectangle, and start rolling. I divided it into 4 before rolling, but you could do the whole thing if you want. You’ll need a good bit of flour to be sure it doesn’t stick at first. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness, then start cutting out shapes. I used 2 different leaf shapes, one maple and one oak. And keep rolling up your scraps and reusing. Bake the cookies at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until firm to the touch. Mine took about 18 minutes.
Once cooled, I iced with royal icing. I used Alton Brown’s recipe. Just whip 3 oz egg whites until frothy, then add 4 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Whip this for about 7 minutes until thick and white. Then, just add your coloring. I used Wilton’s orange gel coloring. I used a piping bag with a small round tip, and I piped the outline, then swirled the icing around the center to cover. As it dried, it because smooth and hard.