"'Tis the season to be jolly' - indeed! This year the cold has been slow in coming - or maybe its just that I have got more accustomed to it over the last two years. By this time last year, we had the room heaters on; this year I haven't even broken out the thermals! Anyhow, I have been enjoying the weather and of course my cooking is reflecting the festive spirit.
The fruits for my Christmas Cake are all marinated, there have been some great soups (sorry no pictures and so no posts!), a first attempt at Butter Chicken (turned out great - but how Da-lhi is that!), fiery kozhambus, soothing masiyals (mashed spinach with lentils finished with a simple tempering) and comforting French toast. There have been visits from dear friends and simple meals shared (not to mention a disaster of a simple casserole!), a delicious meal at Karims, the perfect wedding anniversary celebration and a beautiful evening at the Garden of Five Senses.
This weekend, after visiting the Christmas Carnival at my daughter's old playschool (was it just a year back we were going through the nerve wracking admission process for her?!) I finally got down to baking cookies with her - she has been asking for the Gingerbread Man for the whole of last month, since we have been reading the story. I didn't have molasses, which is what all the recipes seemed to call for. So I decided to replace it with dark chocolate to get the right colour and a different flavour.
They were perfect - the spices beautifully complimenting the chocolate and I even managed icing - I guess my daughter seems to know how difficult I find it, because she kept egging me on "Its great, Amma - you are doing good!" LOL :) Its not the actual work involved, but putting all the sugar in which makes me think twice! Well worth the effort though - the shining eyes and cheery smile as she devoured a gingerbread woman, was priceless!
I did other shapes which my daughter could cut out with the cookie cutters - the gingerbread people I did with stencils since I didn't have the cookie cutter shapes for them. I also made some plain gingersnap cookies (without the chocolate and with more ginger in them) for the adults in the house. The lack of molasses/ chocolate shows in the pale colour, but the taste was great and they were thin and crispy - just the way I like my cookies!
maida) - 150gms
Whole wheat flour (atta) - 100 gms
1/2 tbsp dry ginger powder (soonth)
1/2 tbsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp powdered star anise
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Unsalted butter - 100gm
Brown sugar - 40gm
1/2 cup melted dark chocolate
Tiny black raisins for decorating
Royal Icing: (Some tips here)
White of 1 1/2 small eggs
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 cups icing sugar
1. Cream the butter (softened on its own if possible) in a bowl till smooth, add the brown sugar and mix again till shiny. Then the egg goes in and mixed for about 3 minutes till light and finally add the melted chocolate (Melt at 10 second intervals in a microwave or in a bowl over barely simmering water on the stove top)
2. Meanwhile, measure out the flour, baking soda, salt and spices and mix together.
3. Add one third of the flour mixture to the creamed butter/egg mixture and mix till just combined, add the other two thirds the same way, taking care not to over mix.
4. Use your hands at the end if needed, divide into two portions, cover with clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for atleast one hour.
5. Pre heat the oven to 180C. Remove one portion and try to roll out on a floured surface - a rectangle 1/8th of an inch is sufficient. If it is too dry, add some milk a tsp at a time till you can roll out without sticking. If handled too much the dough may need to be chilled again since the chocolate might make it sticky.
6. While rolling out, make sure you keep trying to lift the rolled out dough off the work surface to check whether it is sticking, else you wont be able to peel of the cut out shapes.
7. Cut out the shapes with cookie cutters or stencils (search for Gingerbread men shapes on the internet, print, cut out and place on the cookie dough and cut with a sharp knife), put in small raisins for the eyes and buttons, transfer to butter paper (parchment paper) and bake for 15 minutes - check at 12 minutes and remove if it is done.
8. Cool on a rack - meanwhile, whip the egg white and lemon juice together while adding the icing sugar gradually till the mixture forms peaks when you lift the blender out of the bowl. A little less than 2 cups of sugar usually suffices. Transfer to an icing cone and decorate the cookies when cooled. Leave aside to dry completely.
The Gingersnap cookies