Halloween is a fantastic holiday. It is low pressure and all of the individual elements are fun: dressing up, carving pumpkins, eating treats. For anyone who doesn’t celebrate it, kids dress up in costumes and people give them candy. I practically lived for the holiday when I was little; I didn’t get much candy at home. Of course, as I got older I learned to appreciate things in life other than free candy. And they are… well, you know what they are. They’re very important.
I can’t “Trick or Treat” anymore. The only person who still thinks I could pass for a primary school student is my great aunt, and, between us, she may not be entirely clear on what year it is (of course I love her anyway). I still have a lot of fun decorating, picking out a costume and, of course, making Halloween goodies.
The distinct chill in the air makes this the perfect time of year for my first batch of gingerbread. I couldn’t resist making the Gingerbread Skeleton cookies. I knew that I wanted to make these when I first saw them on Epicurious.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any animal cookie cutters aside from one in the shape of a unicorn. And I think we can all agree that nothing is scarier than a skeletal unicorn. Except maybe a zombie unicorn, but you’re on your own for that one.
Gingerbread dough is simple and spicy. I added a bit of cinnamon and extra ginger to mine. This dough rolled out very easily with a bit of flour and rerolled without seeming to develop much, if any, toughness. I went for a baking time in the middle of the frame recommended by the recipe and got soft, chewy cookies. The flavor was very good, neither too spicy nor too bland. There isn’t much sugar in the recipe, so I actually prefered the iced cookies to the un-iced, enjoying that extra hint of sweetness.
My icing was a simple, stiff mixture of confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and milk. I used a small, plain tipped piping bag. This icing couldn’t be any easier, but if you buy a tube of white decorator icing at the market, I won’t tell.
(adapted slightly from Epicurious.com)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tube white decorating icing with small tip
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses, water and vanilla. Mixture may look a bit curdled, which is ok. With your mixer on low speed, or by hand, beat in flour until a uniform dough forms. Divide dough into two or three pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters of your choice (animals are nice!) to cut dough. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes, depending on size of cookie cutter (Mine needed 9 minutes. I got about 40 cookies.). Cookies should be just brown at the edges.
Cool completely before decorating with white icing.