The cool pine scent of the Christmas tree as it is first brought into the house, the silence of snow falling on Christmas eve, and a candle flickering in a frosty window are some of my favorite Christmas sights and smells. Gingerbread baking in the oven is another wonderful Christmas scent, and every year I bake a soft gingerbread cookie in different shapes and sizes, using a recipe from Fannie Farmer. This year I made hearts decorated with glaceed cherries and citron, stars dusted with sparkling white sprinkles, and stars dipped into dark chocolate. Whenever I bake gingerbread I feel a bit like the witch in “Hansel and Gretel,” (though a nice witch, I hasten to add) and I love the fairy tale feeling.
Fairy Tale Christmas Hearts and Stars
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Thoroughly cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the molasses and egg. Stir together the dry ingredients, and add to the first mixture until the dough is thoroughly combined. Cover and chill for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease some cookie sheets, or cover with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out desired shapes and place on baking sheet about one inch apart. Bake for about 7 minutes. When still warm, frost with Vanilla Glaze.
Note: Be sure to thoroughly cream the butter with the sugar so that there are no little streaks or blobs of butter in the finished dough. The dark brown sugar gives a more authentic old gingerbread look. To thoroughly combine the dough, knead it for about a minute. The dough can be rolled and re-rolled two or three times. Use any scraps to make cookies for the birds.
In a small mixing bowl stir together 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon melted butter, one teaspoon vanilla extract, and enough water (about 1 tablespoon) to make the glaze spreadable. (Dribble the water in and stir–don’t add it all at once. Just keep dribbling it in. The glaze should be liquid enough to drip from the spoon.) Frost the cookies when still warm for the glaze to look translucent.