Decorated Gingerbread Cookies
- 4 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 pound confectioners' sugar
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 drop lemon juice or vinegar
- Food coloring
- Raisins, currants, nutmeats, colored sugar, sprinkles and other decorations
For the dough, add the dry ingredients (except sugar) to a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Beat the butter and sugar, adding one egg at a time. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth. Beat in half the flour mixture, then stop and scrape the bowl and beater(s). Beat in the molasses, scrape again, and beat in the remaining flour mixture, just until combined.
Divide the dough into several pieces and press each piece into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least one hour or until firm.
Set the racks in the middle upper thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Roll the dough, one piece at a time, on a floured surface, just to make the dough flat and even, but not much thinner. Cut with floured cutters and arrange on the pans an inch or two apart. Repeat with the remaining dough. Reroll the scraps immediately; or press together, chill and reroll later. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, until firm when pressed with a fingertip.
Cool the cookies on the pans. Meanwhile for the icing, combine confectioners' sugar and egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat by machine until combined. Add the lemon juice or vinegar and continue beating until fluffy. Divide the icing into several small bowls and add coloring. Keep plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the icing to prevent a crust from forming. Use a paper cone or the snipped end of a plastic bag to pipe icing on the cookies. Use the raisins and other decorative ingredients to accent the icing