Reminiscing over the holidays

As you have seen, November & December posts are obsolete! It was a whirlwind of events, but I loved every bit of the holidays. The best part about those times is being with family & of course, preparing delicious foods & getting to indulge in them.

A food contribution that I like to bring to Christmas at my future in-laws’ are my gluten-free & eggless gingerbread cookies. This way, everyone can enjoy them. This is my third year baking them at Christmastime – however I tried a new recipe and used a new gluten-free baking mix as well! They were well-received & all devoured before Christmas dinner was ready, much to my surprise (I made over three dozen 1 inch gingerbread men..and there were lots of delicious snacks including a cheeseboard & even salmon dip around!).

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When making spice cookies or cakes of any sort – I tend to use a variety of spices that pack a nice punch in flavour, but if you are catering to the less than adventurous crowd (i.e. children?), feel free to cut down or omit any of the spices that seem too intense. The recipe that I based these off of is actually a vegan gingerbread cookie dough recipe found here (thanks Google! & Gena Hamshaw); but to be honest, I (& everyone else who would be eating these) LOVE butter; so in addition, I used half & half in place of the dairy substitute. Why half & half? It’s what we had on hand, but I’m sure whole milk or heavy cream would do just as well (if you prefer using dairy). In addition to the differences in dairy, my recipe calls for a bit more of the GF flour, as I’ve found that the cookies won’t crack as much after baking, yielding a smooth, less craggy-looking cookie.

The gluten-free baking mix that I’ve been using for the past year & a half is called Pamela’s. I can’t exactly pinpoint when I first started using it, but the most probable scenario was having pancakes at my fiancé’s parents’ house with his grandmother. This pancake mix can easily become eggless by using flaxseed meal. They turned out delicious & henceforth, it’s been a day-off breakfast staple. You can find Pamela’s at most food co-ops, Sprouts or Whole Foods. Great stuff! I highly recommend it. Though if you are extremely lactose-intolerant, it does contain powdered buttermilk in the mix.. Be sure to read that ingredient list! The other widely available gluten-free baking flour alternative is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour, which I’ve used many-a-time. Or if you are able to utilise the gluten… by all means, do!

In the years past, I would normally make the dough at my apartment before making the trek over, but since we flew in days before Christmas from Southern California – the dough was made there, which was no problem at all. All you need are the ingredients, measuring utensils, a whisk, a mixing spoon & of course, mixing bowls.

GLUTEN-FREE & EGGLESS GINGERBREAD COOKIES
yield varies by cookie cutter size; 3+ dozen 1-inch cookies

2 ¾ cups Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix (plus extra for rolling)
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon coffee grounds or cocoa powder
1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt

½ cup melted butter
½ cup molasses
1⁄4 cup half & half, heavy cream or whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
½ cup sugar

In one mixing bowl, mise the dry: the gluten-free baking mix, leavening & spices. Whisk together. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, molasses, half & half, vanilla extract & bourbon until uniform then whisk in sugar. Add the wet into the dry & fold until the mixture is a cohesive mass. Continue stirring or if you’d like to use your hands, knead dough until fully mixed. Portion the dough in half & flatten into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap & refrigerate until the dough firms up for cutting (this takes about an 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how cold your refrigerator is).

Once the dough is ready for cutting, pre-heat your oven to 350ºF. Flour the surface & roll out the dough to about a 1⁄4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes & place them onto a greased & floured (or parchment-lined) sheet pan. Be sure to space the cookies at least 1 inch apart (more if your cookie shape is larger than 1 inch in diameter/height).  Chill the cookie-laden sheet pan for about 10 minutes before baking. The bake time on the cookies is approximately 8 minutes, if the cookie size is small. Bake until the edges set. Remember that the longer you bake them, the crispier the cookies will be. After the cookies cool, they can be iced! I use a simple orange icing, the recipe is below.

ORANGE ICING
yields ¾ cup icing

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of orange juice
zest of ½ an orange

Whisk together until smooth. To be honest, the above measurements are really done by eye..so if the consistency is too runny, add more powdered sugar; or if too thick, trickle in more orange juice. If you are not keen on orange, replace with dairy or water & add a ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Once your desired consistency is achieve, transfer to a piping bag with a small tip (but not so small that orange zest cannot pass through); or a plastic zip-lock bag with a corner snipped off. Ice away! Be creative (it seems to me that sugar fiends & children alike appreciate excessively iced gingerbread cookies)!

& for my Doctor Who fans out there, enjoy this snapshot! (also, see what I mean by craggy gingerbread  men cookies?, this was before I added more flour to the dough)

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Hope everyone was able to spend time with their loved ones this past holiday season!

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