Last weekend Rob and I hosted a holiday cookie party, a celebration of sugar and the season, with lots of mulled wine and brandy-spiked cider and people groaning, “I can’t eat any more…” while shoving just one more cookie in their mouths. Success!
I made three cookies: Martha Stewart’s striped Neapolitan Cookies, Dorie Greenspan’s incredible double chocolate World Peace Cookies and my own Gingerbread Bites. The gingerbread dough — dark with molasses, spiked with black pepper — is based on a reliable recipe I found years ago. I used it to make the standard gingerbread men the first year, but a chubby, oddly shaped man made from the cut-out scraps convinced me that thick cookies were the way to go (I was convinced after eating him, I mean, not that he actually sat me down and talked me into it) and I devised a new baking method. Instead of rolling the dough flat and cutting out cookies, I form fat little balls of dough and dip them in sanding sugar. They bake up moist and cakey with a compelling sugary crunch and are small and addictive enough to eat in multiples.
Preferably with other people around. If there’s one thing I learned this weekend, it’s that binge cookie-eating, like drinking, is much more socially acceptable if done in a group. Just don’t try to operate any heavy machinery for a couple hours.
Makes about 4 dozen 1-inch cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
Raw washed sugar or other coarse sugar
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper through a wire sieve into a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on high speed to beat the butter and shortening until smooth and well-combined, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy and light-colored, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. With a spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cover the bottom of a shallow dish with the coarse sugar. Working with one disk at a time, break off a small piece of dough and roll between your palms to form a ball about 3/4″ across. Flatten the ball slightly and dip the top in the sugar. Continue with the remaining dough, placing the cookies about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are firm. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Can be stored for up to one week in an airtight container.