This post has been ripening in my WordPress drafts for days, even though I almost never procrastinate writing for this site. Yet if ever there were a post that dismissed my desire to apologize for its lateness, it’s this one. These Christmas cookies are invented for procrastinators, for bakers with high expectations but paltry amounts of time with which to follow through on lofty goals. These are cookies for the twenty-something who made big promises to herself on the cookie-baking front–”I’m going to send cookies to all my friends and family and workmates this year!”–and then got busy with holiday parties and happy hours and work and sleep and shopping. These are pretty little soft iced gingersnaps with a corner-cutting, quarter-life soul.
This time of year, some bakers make an assortment of cookies. Others double down on the decorations, festooning sugar cookie Santas, trees, snowflakes, and stars with bright icings and sparkly sprinkles.
Either approach requires a reasonable investment in ingredients, shopping, and preparation.
On the other hand, with these gingersnaps, I simplified holiday baking to its essence, starting with spiced dough, which asks for no special ingredients or equipment–not even a handheld mixer. Instead of rolling out the dough to cut into gingerbread men and women, I just formed little balls. For the royal icing, I skipped food coloring and topped the gingersnaps with bright and festive white, which I amplified with one single decoration, really pretty little white pearls. These snowflake sprinkles would be lovely, too. But if you’re thinking about economy (of money and cabinet space) stick to one kind of sprinkle.
I’ll be back later this week with my favorite way to pack cookies for gifting – it’s similarly low key, you’ll be glad to know.
Makes about 4 dozen
For the cookies:
1 cup sugar
¾ cup molasses
¼ cup honey
¾ cup unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour (or just use 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
For icing and decorating:
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 egg whites, beaten
1 tube white pearl decorations, or your favorite sprinkle type–but limit it to one if you know what’s good for you!
Put the sugar, molasses, honey, and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until the butter is melted, the sugar is dissolved, and the whole mess bubbles a bit. This should take about 4 minutes, but go in 30 second intervals.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, spices, baking soda and salt. Add the sugar mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Add the water and incorporate it.
Refrigerate the dough until it solidifies to a workable consistency – about 1 hour. You can wait just 30 minutes if you’re in a rush.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls and place them about 2 inches apart on the sheets. Bake 7-10 minutes, or until the cookies puff up and are slightly cracked on top. Cool 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a rack or serving platter. Cool completely before icing.
To make the icing, drizzle the egg whites into the confectioners’ sugar, whisking as you go. You want the icing to be thick but spreadable, so add more sugar as needed.
Spread icing across the top of each gingersnap and sprinkle with the pearls, pressing them in slightly so they stick in the icing. Let the icing dry in a single layer for 1-2 hours before stacking in a nonstick container.