Simple Gingerbread Cookies

And now a word from my toaster...

In all seriousness, as readers of this blog you may know that my oven is currently broken. There were wild rumors flying around that it was fixed. These rumors are untrue, and you should disregard them.

What do you do when you have a hefty hunk of gingerbread and your oven refuses (strike? persnickety-ness? spite?) to light?

You push on as normal and throw them in the toaster.

Last year, we featured a host of traditional Iaciofano Family Christmas Cookies, including the Pizzelle, the Russian Tea Cake and the all-popular Butter Cookie. This year I thought I would give you a cookie recipe that's good for Christmas, Hanukkah, Ground Hog Day....and generally all winter long. Just change the cookie cutter shape!

The added bonus to this particular recipe is that it is the easiest gingerbread recipe that I've found. The easiest and I'm going to throw this out there – the best. You don't have to refrigerate the dough at all, and yet the dough is very easy to manage and manipulate.

I don't like my gingerbread cookies too crispy, so I cook them for a touch less time so they have a little "give" to them.

The recipe I used is from Epicurious, and I didn't modify it at all, as it's truthfully perfect. Here's how it goes:

For the cookies:

What You Need:

2/3 cup molasses (not robust)

2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Special equipment: assorted 2 to 3 inch cookie cutters; a metal offset spatula; a pastry bag fitted with 1/8- to 1/4-inch plain tip (optional).

What To Do:

Bring molasses, brown sugar, and spices to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat. Stir in baking soda (mixture will foam up), then stir in butter 3 pieces at a time, letting each addition melt before adding next, until all butter is melted. Add egg and stir until combined, then stir in 3 3/4 cups flour and salt.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour as needed to prevent sticking, until soft and easy to handle, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Halve dough, then wrap 1 half in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.

Roll out remaining dough into a 14-inch round (1/8 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface. Cut out as many cookies as possible with cutters and carefully transfer with offset spatula to 2 buttered large baking sheets, arranging them about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are slightly darker, 10 to 12 minutes total (watch carefully toward end of baking; cookies can burn easily). Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll once).

Put icing in pastry bag (if using) and pipe or spread decoratively onto cookies.

For the icing:

What You Need:

Makes about 2 cups

3 1/4 cups (or more)

powdered sugar, sifted

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon strained

fresh lemon juice

What You Do:

Using electric mixer, beat 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar and egg whites until thick and shiny, adding more powdered sugar by tablespoonfuls if mixture is too thin to spread, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice. Divide icing into portions, if desired, and add different food coloring to each. Cover until ready to use.

I iced these little ones very basically, using the dots and lines technique I learned from The Tough Cookie. I thought I should keep it simple, as I'm a novice icer. I was especially thrilled with myself when I figured out how to make a bowtie out of icing dots (drag with a toothpick from the center outward).

I also used teeny-tiny cookie cutters (better for fitting a bunch in the toaster oven at one time). They are great gifts, wrapped up all Martha Stewart-style with a bow and cellophane bag. Or just keep them in a jar on the top of your fridge and eat them at random moments during the day...

Don't be surprised if you're making these all winter long.