- by Charlotte Hubbard
Spice and Secrets!
Once again this year I’ve crammed my deep freeze with nearly 120 dozen yummy Christmas cookies! I send them to my agent and editors for gifts, I donate them to my church by the boxful, and I deliver cookie buckets to my sibs and family, and trays to my friends around town (including booksellers, my travel agent, etc.). Baking this many cookies takes time (and money!) but it’s my way of telling the people in my life that they are worth my best efforts…and maybe it’s a little ego boost when somebody asks, “You are bringing lots of your bourbon balls and turtles, right?”
Considering the stuff that’s flying around in the publishing world right now, I invite you to fill your home with the sweet, spicy aroma of this Williamsburg Gingerbread—a historical recipe I’ve baked for years. Immerse yourself rolling the dough and playing with your cookie cutters—great therapy!—and then enjoy the results! For a cookie with a neat secret, try the Hidden Chocolate Cookies, another of my faves because each contains an Andes mint!
And to top it off, I’ll give you my recipe for buttercream frosting! And I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas–or whatever holiday you celebrate—and I’ll see you here again in the New Year!
Williamsburg Gingerbread (7-8 doz.)
½ C. softened butter (no substitutes)
1 C. sugar
3 T. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground cloves, 2 T. ground ginger,
1 T. lemon flavoring
¾ C. evaporated milk
5 C. flour
1 ½ T. baking powder
1 C. molasses
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the spices and milk. Alternately add the flour, powder, and molasses to make a thick, wet dough. Press into a large ball, wrap in wax paper or
plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll chunks of the dough on a well-floured
surface and cut with floured cutters. Be patient—the dough is moist and sticky. Bake about 8 minutes (I recommend using parchment paper, which can be reused for the entire batch of dough), until cookies are set, for a soft, chewy, totally awesome ginger cookie. Cool, decorate, and store with wax paper between each layer.
Hidden Chocolate Cookies (2 dozen…I triple the recipe)
½ C. sugar, ¼ C. brown sugar
¼ C. shortening (like Crisco)
¼ C. softened butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
1 2/3 C. flour
½ tsp. baking soda
24-30 Andes mints, unwrapped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening, butter, vanilla and egg, and then add the dry ingredients. Shape 1 T. dough around each mint, sealing edges to form an oblong cookie. Again, I recommend using parchment paper on your baking sheet. Bake 2” apart, 7-8 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool. Spread frosting on tops of cookies and then dredge in sanding sugar, jimmies, etc.
Buttercream Frosting (frosts a layer cake or several batches of cookies)
½ C. shortening (like Crisco)
½ C. butter (no substitutes)
½ C. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon flavoring
1 2-lb. bag of powdered sugar
Measure shortening, butter, and liquids into mixer bowl and begin
to mix with about 2 C. of the sugar, working more in once you’re
past the splatter stage. Takes the whole bag of sugar to make thick
buttercream that holds its shape. Tint with paste or gel colors.