Gingerbread bells and snowstorms

December 29, 2010 § Leave a comment


I’ve been sitting on a lot of trains lately, and planes, yet have thankfully avoided the snowstorm that has taken over several European cities and made travel virtually impossible. I’ve been to Christmas markets across the continent, drinking various traditional forms of mulled wine and tasting Christmas cookies of all varieties. I feel traveled and Christmased out before, really, the festivities have even started. It’s hard to reconcile the constant moving around with sitting on the floor next to the Christmas tree, which seems to shrink in size ever year, rattling the presents with my brother, trying to figure out what they contain in the days before Christmas morning. Instead, I am trodding through the snow and the slush and the fog in Austria and Hungary. The snowstorm has descended like a blanket across the cities, the skies are a deep white and the tops of historical landmarks — kings’ palaces, tombs — seem to disappear under the mist.

While I remember going out running in a sports bra and shorts at home on Christmas day last year, here I have been wearing two scarves and a fur hat since the beginning of November. I’ll be wishing in the New Year at whatever restaurant table we can get a seat at in the hustle and bustle of the Venetian holidays. While I am immersed in the pastry tasting and Picasso-viewing, I am also eagerly counting down the days until I get home; my blogging will be scarce until mid-January but rest assured I am drinking plenty of espressos and writing non-stop in these fabulous leather-bound journals I purchased from a very pleasant Italian woman who has been making books for 15 years. I wish you all very happy holidays and leave you with my favorite gingerbread cookies, which I remember pulling out of the oven in Paris just as the 4-year old twin boys living above me started a snowball fight with their dad in the courtyard outside my window. When I went out, the dad began pelting me with snowballs and before I knew it I was fully engaged in a battle of minuscule and huge snowballs (depending greatly on who was doing the throwing) punctured with squeals of “Ah, je suis touché!” It’s these simple joyful moments that remind us how special the holidays are for us all.

Gingerbread cookies
Adapted from The Christmas Cookie Book by Lou Seibert Pappas

½ cup butter (113 g)
½ cup sugar (115 g)
1 egg
½ cup molasses (120 ml)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3 cups flour (330 g)
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Cream together the butter and sugar until light. Mix in the molasses, cider vinegar and egg, beating until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the flour mixture and mix until blended. Scrape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for two hours until firm.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until 1/8-inch thick. Cut out cookies using decorative cookie cutters and place cut cookies on trays. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on the edges. Let cool completely on racks.
Ice cookies using a pastry bag and tip. Icing can be made by simply combining food coloring, water and powdered sugar until you reach the desired color and consistency.

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