Baking Christmas Memories: Rolled Gingerbread Cookies

Some of my fondest childhood memories of Christmas are those of my brother, sister and me baking Christmas cookies with our mother. We'd all end up covered in flour and frosting, the kitchen would be a mess and the cookies never came close to resembling the perfectly-decorated confections featured on the pages of Mom's favorite magazines, but we had a great time creating our "masterpieces."

Here is a kid-pleasing Christmas cookie recipe that you can make with your own children, creating memories that will last for years to come.

Rolled Gingerbread Cookies These cookies are mildly spiced, for kids. If you like your gingerbread men a little hotter, use 1 tablespoon each of ground cinnamon and ginger instead of 2 teaspoons. The dough can be cut into gingerbread people, of course, and decorated with raisins, red hots, and chocolate chips before being baked. Or cut the dough into any shape and decorate the cookies with icing. Makes about 40 medium gingerbread people

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

½ cup dark (not light or blackstrap) molasses

1 tablespoon water

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium mixing bowl.

Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium high speed until fluffy Add the egg, molasses, and water and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough comes together in a ball.

Divide the dough into 3 equal balls. Wrap each ball in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours and for up to 2 days. (The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; defrost it in the refrigerator before use.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out a ball of dough 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough into gingerbread people or any other desired shapes and place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet. If making gingerbread people, make eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons with raisins, red hots, small gumdrops, and/or chocolate chips. Refrigerate the scraps.

Bake the cookies until they are firm, about 8 minutes. Slide the entire parchment sheet with the cookies onto a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely. Repeat with the remaining balls and then with the chilled scraps, using fresh parchment paper. Decorate with icing as desired.

Rolled Gingerbread Cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days.

Recipe reprinted from "Mom's Big Book of Baking" by Lauren Chattman Copyright © 2001, with permission from Harvard Common Press.

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