Easy, fun, delicious and a great activity to get the kids involved in!
Gingerbread cookies? My favorite! As many of you know, I have accepted my own baking challenge that I presented to myself. Ha ha! I like to challenge myself since it allows me to constantly be learning new things and this was definitely new for me. I know it’s hard to believe that someone that LOVES to cook so much is not good at baking or decorating cookies, but I PROMISE you, I am not experienced in that department at ALL! Of course I made cookies with my mom and Grandma when I was little, but they did the baking and I mostly did the taste testing and not much of the decorating. Now that I am a mom I want to learn how to bake and ice cookies since I will need to do it a lot as my kids get older and I WANT them to also learn how to do it as well so they can teach their own children someday. I am all about teaching my kids anything I can when it comes to cooking and now baking since I think it is a great skill to have.
Enough about me and my non-existent baking skills, let’s move onto how I accomplished this task.
First, I should disclose that I did a decent amount of research as I typically do when I am trying to learn a new skill, why not take it to the experts right? By research I mean watch videos on YOUTUBE and scan Pinterest for baking and cookie decorating ideas. In doing that, I LEARNED a few key tips that I believe helped me achieve my goal.
Baking and Cookie Decorating TIPS I learned:
Tip Two: Use a Silpat for baking. I know these can be around $26 but trust me, it will change your baking game. Before I used one my cookies would always spread and melt on the pan and lose their shape. Now, using this mat, they come out perfect EVERYTIME! Problem SOLVED!
Tip Three: Follow the directions in the recipe. Measure, measure, measure, and precisely follow the steps. I think most people know that baking is a science so shortcuts typically do not work and I have learned that lesson more than once for sure.
Tip Four: Watch the cookies as they bake and when you think they are not quite done and need a few more minutes, then take them out! Every oven is different so you need to gauge yours especially if you are new to baking like I am.
Tip Five: Enlist cute little helpers like I did to reduce the stress of learning how to bake lol!
I know, I know, they are so cute and they are all MINE! I am so lucky! Love them to pieces. They did an amazing job helping me cut out the cookies. My little Bakers.
Once I got the cookies cut, baked and cooled, it was time to attempt icing them. EEekkkk! I was so nervous that it would be too hard and I would be terrible at it since I am not the most patient person, but it turned out to be pretty fun and I don’t think I did half bad.
The key to the icing part was waiting a decent amount of time (about 4 hours) after I baked the cookies, to ice them. This time allowed them to cool properly. The next key thing was the consistency of the icing. Mine was even a little runny and I will adjust it more next time. For piping detail you want the icing to be a more sturdy consistency and for flooding or filling in the cookies you want it be more runny. Remember that if you use food coloring it will dilute the icing more so make it stiffer if you are planning to add food coloring. I learned this by watching experts on YOUTUBE. The other thing I learned was the icing simply consists of confectioner’s sugar and egg whites. That’s it! I was surprised by that for sure. The amount of egg whites you add to the sugar changes the consistency based on how you are planning to ice the cookies. I made a big batch of piping icing which is more sturdy and less runny and then I added some more egg whites when I was ready to use a more runny icing. For the most part I stuck with the sturdy icing since it was easier to work with.
For my tools, I just used an icing bag with a size 1 and 2 tip and that worked out really well. I also placed the cookies on a no slip cabinet liner and that helped to stabilize the cookies while I was working my icing magic. I came up with the designs just by scanning Pinterest for ideas and I was very happy with how they turned out. It did take me a couple of tries to get the hang of it (I didn’t show those cookies in my pictures lol!), but once I practiced for a while, I eventually got the hang of it but I still need to keep practicing.
Here are the recipes I used. I hope this inspires those of you that are not experienced in baking and icing cookies to take a chance at it like I did. You never know, maybe you have a skill you didn’t know was there and you may become the next greatest baker!!!!
- 6 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons found cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup organic molasses
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- 4 egg whites (use gradually to thin out the frosting)
- In a large bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda and baking powder and set aside.
- Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the spices and salt. Add in the eggs and molasses, mix well. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add in the flour until it is fully combined with the other ingredients.
- Divide the dough into thirds, using a floured surface, form each section into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap.
- Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a baking sheet with the Silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/8 inch thickness and start making your cookies by pressing the cookie cutters of your choice into the dough and lightly place the cookies onto the baking sheet. Once you have filled the baking sheet with your cut out cookies, bake them for 6-8 minutes in your preheated oven. I did this in batches.
- Let them cool for a few hours on a cooling rack before you ice them.
- Sift the sugar into a medium size bowl and slowly add in a little bit of the egg whites and stir. Continue adding in the egg whites until you reach your desired consistency.
- Place a portion of the icing into an icing bag fit with a size 1 or 2 tip and you are ready to ice your cookies!
- When making a big batch of icing, make sure to cover the bowl with a clean, damp towel to ensure the icing does not get hard and crusty.