Tag Archives: Baking

Gingerbread Cookies

Christmas isn’t complete without Gingerbread Cookies.  This tradition of baking, what I consider the best Christmas treat started years ago in my mom’s kitchen.  Every year my mom and I would whip up and bake traditional British treats like Minced Meat Pies (never understood them – never liked them) and Shortbread Cookies as well as Canadian favourites such as Nanaimo Bars, Chocolate Coconut Balls, Sugar Cookies and finally, Gingerbread Cookies.

I have since carried on the baking tradition with my kids, although not the variety that you see above.  We have narrowed down the best of the best and Gingerbread in our house always tops the charts.  This recipe from William Sonoma has been successful with my family so I urge you to give it a try 🙂

Gingerbread cookies

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (780 g)
  • 1tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbs. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (250 g) at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (105 g)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (125 g)
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses (345 g)
  • 1 egg
  • Decorating sugars and pastes as desired

Directions:

Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Over a sheet of parchment paper, sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale yellow, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the brown and granulated sugars and beat for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the molasses, beating until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.Add the flour mixture in 4 additions, beating in each addition before adding more. Beat just until combined, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Using floured hands, form the dough into a smooth mound and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.Preheat an oven to 400ºF. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.Remove 1 dough disk at a time from the refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. Place the dough between 2 sheets of parchment or waxed paper and roll out to a thickness of 1/4 to 3/8 inch. This thickness is important to ensure the baked cookies will fit together.Dip the cutters into flour just before using and cut out the shapes (see tips below). Using an offset spatula, carefully transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets, putting similar-size pieces on the same pan: snowman bases and reindeer legs on one; sleigh sides, treetops and tree bases on another; and snowman bodies, reindeer bodies and sleigh ends on another. The sides of each notch need to be parallel so the notch will fit into the interlocking piece after baking; if the sides have stretched apart, gently push them towards each other so they are parallel.

Repeat with the remaining dough. Gather up the scraps, reroll them and cut out additional cookies. For best results, do not reroll scraps more than once. Refrigerate the cookies until firm, about 20 minutes.

Bake the cookies until lightly browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes for snowman bases and reindeer legs; 6 to 7 minutes for snowman bodies, reindeer bodies and sleigh ends; and 8 to 9 minutes for sleigh sides, treetops and tree bases.

Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes. If the dough has spread into the notches during baking, use a paring knife to gently trim off the excess cookie while still warm so the cookies will interlock when assembled. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets, then decorate as desired and assemble. Makes 4 or 5 of each type of cookie.

This recipe is from William Sonoma

The Quest to Bake a Chocolate Chip Cookie in Austria

As soon as the winter chill sets in my thoughts go straight to baking chocolate chip cookies.  Combine that with drinking a tall glass of cold milk in the aroma filled kitchen as soon as they come out of the oven and I’m in cookie land heaven!  To me, this is always a quick fix to overcome any homesickness that might be lingering too.

Achieving North American bliss in Austria however, is a different story.  What I considered “baking 101” has turned into a science of “WTF is going on?” – it’s ONLY chocolate chip cookies!  Why I ask… why?

So lets start with the ingredients.  Typical ingredients that you would find in a North American pantry like vanilla extract, brown sugar (the molasses kind) and chocolate chips do not exist in Austria. You won’t even find fondant or corn syrup either, unless you visit a specially store that imports & charges triple for everything.  Instead, you will have to settle for brown sugar cane, vanilla sugar and cut up chocolate chunks & hope for the best.  Trust me it doesn’t work.  I now allocate 5kg of luggage weight just to bring back these precious ingredients from my annual trips home to Canada.  I even bring back baking soda as the “Backpulver” here seems to loose its potency a couple of days after opening.   Now that I am fully stocked you’d think that it’s just a matter of whipping, mixing and baking right?  Nope.

Photos from “Freesytle Farm’s” blog was enough to entice me to give it one more go.

Freestylefarm.ca swears that their recipe will produce a perfect balance of crispy & chewy, which is exactly what I have been looking for. However, after seeing and tasting my results I think the more appropriate name for the recipe would be  “The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies unless you live outside North America”.

The difference must be the dairy & flour.  The happy chickens here produce a much richer coloured yellow yolk.  Could that affect the recipe?  I use “Universal” flour, which is considered an all-purpose flour here in Austria.  Are the gluten levels different?  Could the lower protein component influence the outcome?  And the butter, well the butter is my biggest suspect for deflating my cookies (ego too).  Butter whipped at room temperature separates when mixed with egg (at room temperature).  It even separates when whipped with sugar (I gave up on butter icing LONG ago).  It’s gotta be the butter.   Damn you Austrian cows!

….. 1 week later…. & after some research on European flour

Ta-Dah!

So without completely boring you with the details it turns out that the selection of European flour is HUGE. I had been using the wrong flour all along.  Here is a great blog that explains it all “A Vegetarian in Germany

Now I always like to add a twist to anything that I bake and I’ve tweaked the William Sonoma recipe to make it my own.  Since chocolate chips are almost non-existant here I used Milka as a substitute, and not just any plain ‘ol chocolate.  This is a chocolate with Daim pieces & conflakes treat!  Cut this into smaller chunks and add it in addition to your chocolate chunks and your cookie will turn out wicked good!

If you want to try something different I invite you to give my recipe a go.  I suggest to all my European readers to keep the measurements in grams, forget the “cups”.  Ingredients weigh different here than to North America.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Type 700 Glatt for Austria. Type 550 Glatt for Germany. 220g)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (125g)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (125g)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (105g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of chopped hazelnuts (125g)
  • 1/2 cup chopped up milk or dark chocolate (70g)
  • 1 bag of chopped up Milka Diam Snax (145g)

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F (180C).
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, using a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the butter and the granulated and brown sugars until the mixture is light in texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until smooth and stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. With a spoon, stir in the chopped chocolate and chopped hazelnuts, distributing them evenly throughout the dough. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

Position racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the chilled dough onto the baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies on the middle rack until the cookies are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool slightly before serving. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

photo credit:  First two photos are from http://www.freestylefarms.ca

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