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Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookies!

The Holiday Season is most certainly in full swing. And to prove it, my inbox shows that I have received 50 e-mails from various sources with Christmas Cookies in their subject line. During the holidays there are temptations all around. And I am not going to stand up here on my high blogging pedestal and tell you that I avoid every one of them. I give into them and consider the consequences later.

However, there are ways to make the yuletide festive and still enjoy those family traditions. I'm talking about making choices. Instead of eating a sample of every cookie at the party, survey the landscape and make the most healthful choice. For example, this weekend I made some Christmas cookies using one of the many recipes in my inbox. It is one of my favorite cookies and it certainly screams "Holiday." You can find the recipe here.

But I made a few smart choices. Here is the recipe along with my adaptions.

Gingerbread Men:


  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the work surface (Gingerbread is a heartier cookie, so it can stand up to some wholewheat flour without compromising the finished product. I added 1 1/2 c. wholewheat flour and the rest A.P.)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I upped this to 1 1/2 tsp.)
  • (I also grated in about 1/4 tsp. of fresh nutmeg- look for whole nutmeg in the spice aisle)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar


  1. Heat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour(s), ginger, (nutmeg) cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, and salt.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until smooth. Add the molasses and egg and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.(I also added some vanilla bean that I have bought in mass quantities, but now would be the time to add some vanilla extract, if you like)
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  4. On a floured surface, roll the dough to ¼ inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut into shapes; place on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  5. Bake until firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. (I like to underbake mine just slightly, so they aren't so crisp)
  6. Place confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl; gradually whisk in 1 tablespoon water until a thick icing forms. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag and snip a small hole in one corner. Decorate cookies as desired and let set. (I made royal icing instead. See recipe below)
  7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Royal Icing is great because it has no fat and it hardens shiny and beautiful. It is also very easy to make an work with.

2 egg whites
2 tsp. lemon juice (this reduces the risk of using raw egg)
3 c. powdered sugar (depending on desired consistency)

With an electric mixer (otherwise it will take a long time to get the lumps out) combine whites and lemon juice. Then slowly add the sugar until smooth. Apply immediately or store covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Decorate to your little heart's content.

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