My mother has never liked cooking very much, but one thing she really enjoys is baking Christmas cookies with her nieces.
This family tradition started with my brother's daughters and was resumed as soon as M. was old enough to cut out shapes from a rolled out dough.
Being italian and quite traditional in her cooking habits, my mother had never heard of - not to say tasted - a gingerbread biscuit before stepping into an IKEA department store.
And of course she has always been skeptical about my efforts and endavours whenever I've tried to bake an italian version of the more internationally famous gingerbread man.
This all started when I began teaching english to very young learners: a couple of weeks before Christmas I used to tell them that old favourite story of the 'Gingerbread Man' (remember the refrain 'Run run as fast as you can, you can't catch me I am the gingerbread man'? Even italian children enjoy repeating it! ). The story inevitably inspired me to cook this kind of cookies and that's how I got stuck into different versions of the same recipe, with such exotic ingredients as molasses (where the hell can you find it?) and a never-ending list of spices ...
Anyway...a few days ago M. and I visited my mother (wasn't I talking about her?) and offered her some of the cookies you see in these pictures as a present.
I couldn't but be proud of myself as my mother tasted and appreciated - at last - our gingerbread 'biscotti'. Even though not always perfect in their shape (I beheaded some of the ladies while taking them out of the oven) - they tasted so good!
We made almost three batches of them. M. enjoyed kneading as well as cutting out pine trees and snow flakes from the rolled out dough. A dark brown dough providing sweet and spicy cookies.
A taste of winter, as simple as that.
all-purpose flour: 350 gr - 12,3 oz
wholemeal flour: 130 gr - 4,6 oz
muscavado sugar: 200 gr - 7 oz
or, alternately, a dark brown sugar
unsalted butter: 160 gr - 5,6 oz -room temperature
whole eggs: 2
ground ginger: 3 teaspoons
ground cinnamon: 2 teaspoon
ground cloves: 1 teaspoon
baking soda: 1 generous pinch
salt: 1 teaspoon
In a medium bowl, sift together the two flours, baking soda, salt and spices. Add muscavado sugar and mix well. Make a 'well' or a 'fountain' in the centre of the dry mixture. Add the other ingredients (butter and eggs) in the well and knead the mixture with your hands until it forms a ball of dough. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap each of them in plastic film and keep in the fridge for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 180° C (350°) degrees, position your racks just in the middle, and line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper. Set aside.
Roll the first dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board roughly 3-4 mm (approx1/8-inch) thick and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 7 -10 minutes according to the size of your cookies (8-10 minutes will be fine for 10 cm - 4 inches cookies, but larger cookies will take a bit longer).
Remember the cookies will continue to bake for another couple of minutes once you take them out of the oven, don't overcook them otherwise they will easily dry out!