Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas memory

When I was little, my mother would make a candy-decorated gingerbread house at Christmastime. Precisely cut and baked slabs of cookie were glued together with decorator’s icing. Candy canes, red-hots and life savers were stuck on as doorposts, doorknobs and shingles. More icing outlined the windows and swooped in lacy arcs along the edge of the roof. It was a marvelous confection, except for one thing: we could not eat any of it.

That memory may be why I crave the taste of gingerbread during the holidays. I am a wonderful cook; however, I lack the patience needed to be a great baker. Legions of gingerbread men used to march into my kitchen, having been mixed, rolled, cut out, carefully transferred to the baking pan, baked and oh-so-gingerly (pardon the pun) moved to a rack for cooling.

By that time, I had no patience or energy left for frosting: the legions were left naked.

I’ve found a recipe for a soft cookie that tastes very similar to gingerbread, without all of the hard work and the fragility of the final product. Nowadays I bake a batch for our company potluck, holding back a few to enjoy with a hazelnut latte in the morning.

Spicy Molasses Cookies

¾ cup shortening -- softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix together shortening, brown sugar, egg and molasses. In separate bowl, stir together remaining dry ingredients. Then mix dry ingredients into shortening mixture.

Chill dough 2 hours or overnight.

Roll dough into balls the size of large walnuts and dip tops in white sugar. Place on lightly greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart, sugared side up.

Bake in 375 oven about 10 to 12 minutes, until just set but not hard. Makes 4 dozen.

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