Nothing brings more smiles than a plate of gingerbread men or sugar cookies. These holiday staples are not only easy, they're fun to decorate too! 'Tis the season for giving (and eating), so why not bake a batch of homemade goodness to share with family and friends?
Adapted from Food Network
3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 TSP baking soda
3/4 TSP ground cinnamon
3/4 TSP ground ginger
1/2 TSP ground allspice
1/2 TSP ground cloves
1/2 TSP salt
1/4 TSP freshly milled black pepper
8 TSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 Cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 Cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 Cup unsulfured molasses
1 Large egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper through a wire sieve into a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and vegetable shortening until well-combined. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)
Let dough stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking (about 10 minutes, more if the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours). Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/8 inch thickness, being sure that the dough isn't sticking to the work surface (dust the surface with more flour, if needed). For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure to keep the remaining dough chilled before rolling out more cookies.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely. Decorate with icing.
Vanilla Frosted Cookies
Adapted from The New York Times
8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 Cup sugar
1 TSP vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 TSP baking powder
1/4 Cup milk, plus more if needed
Crushed candy canes, sprinkles or sanding sugar for decorating
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and egg and beat until well blended.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add half the dry ingredients to the dough, beat for a moment, then add the milk. Mix for about 10 seconds, then add the remaining dry ingredients and a little more milk, if necessary, to make a soft dough.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 10 minutes on parchment-lined baking sheets. Let cool completely before frosting and decorating.