Tuesday’s Chill Pill: Play Hooky & Make Gingerbread Cookies

The holidays pack one-two punch for working parents:

first, school is off for winter break and second, most caregivers’ take some time off to get a much needed and deserved R&R. It’s just too bad that the office doesn’t seem to shut down to accommodate! That was my life today.

At first, I was a complete stress ball. I have quite a lot of work to get done by tomorrow… I managed to get a tiny bit of work done in-between the cracks, but by 11:30am I had to admit defeat and surrender to the chaos. Once I let go of getting everything done by six (I’ll time-shift and get it done later tonight), I had a truly amazing day.

If you’re facing a similar situation – I recommend just throwing up your hands and playing hooky. If you live in an area that’s been blanketed by snow in the recent weeks, head outside and play, go sledding, get in a snowball fight, etc. until you’re good and cold. Then head inside and thaw out by baking some gingerbread cookies. They’re so wonderfully aromatic that your whole house will smell like Christmas by the time you’re through.

Fun in the snow!

First Up: fun in the snow!

After we threw all the snowballs we could throw, Will and I headed inside to make cookies. I had never made gingerbread cookies before, but really wanted to have some ready for Santa. Will and I found a delicious (and really, really easy!) recipe from the November 1999 issue of Cooks Illustrated. Here it is:

For about twenty 5-inch gingerbread people or thirty 3-inch cookies
Because flour is not added during rolling, dough scraps can be rolled and cut as many times as necessary Don’t overbake the cookies or they will be dry. Store soft gingerbread in a wide, shallow airtight container or tin with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper between each cookie layer. These cookies are best eaten within one week.
3 cups all-purpose flour 

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly

3/4 cup unsulphured molasses

2 tablespoons milk

1. In food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade, process flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds. Alternatively, in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.

2. Scrape dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/4-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.)

3. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

4. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into 5-inch gingerbread people or 3-inch gingerbread cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-lined cookie sheets with wide metal spatula, spacing them 3/4 inch apart; set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.

5. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used

Next: baking!

Mmmmm Mmmmm Delicious!