At preschool today, I put my MFA to good use with an edible art project: gingerbread cookie decorating. Christmas cookie decorating was big in my house, because my mother was The Most Amazing Christmas Cookie Baker Ever. I kid you not. Mom made cookies for days: Mexican wedding cakes, whiskey rum balls, lemon cornmeal wafers, raspberry oatmeal bars, peanut butter filled chocolate cookies, peanut butter blossoms, apricot hazelnut chocolate dipped bars, rugelach, Jan Hagels, these crazy Oreo cookie ball concoctions, and her signature chipotle gingerbread cookies. She sent Christmas cookie care packages to my closest college pals, my brother and I—long after we had all graduated from college and were gainfully employed in major metropolitan areas. She was amazing that way.
I will certainly never achieve my mother’s greatness in the holiday baking kitchen, nor would I ever attempt to. However, every Christmas I always make the most amazing gingerbread cookies ever:
Maureen’s Incredibly Amazing Chipotle Gingerbread Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (omit if you’re a wuss or if you have small children)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 4 cups all purpose flour (or 2 cups all purpose flour and 2 cups white whole wheat flour)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- In a large saucepan, combing the sugar with the molasses, water and spices. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. Let cool for 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt. Add to the saucepan and mix with a wooden spoon until completely blended. Spoon the dough into a large resealable plastic bag, flatten, and seal. Refrigerate until the dough is firm and cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Cut the dough into quarters. Work with one piece of dough at a time and keep the rest chilled. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip cutter in flour and stamp out cookies as close together as possible. Transfer the cookies to ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until risen, firm and dry. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. Gather any scraps, knead briefly and refrigerate dough before re-rolling.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 2 weeks.