They say everyone has a story, and the same can be said for cookies. This Crisp Gingerbread Stars recipe came out of a food writers’ luncheon I attended in the late 1980s. I cannot remember the venue or the rest of the meal, but I fell in love with the cookies, fragrant with orange, and a deep and dark color with cinnamon and ginger. They were crisp and buttery, yet light. And at my house during the Christmas holidays, they are the cookies that go onto trays to give to friends.
The secret of making great cutout cookies is not only the recipe but the tools. You need a heavy rolling pin. A maple rolling pin bought at E. Dehillerin while in cooking school in Paris decades ago is my favorite. I lugged it back with me in a carry-on bag, something you wouldn’t be able to do today. It is long and tough and can roll anything out as thin as paper. The trick to thin and crispy rolled cookies is to bash the dough first before rolling. Then roll from the center out to the desired thickness. Keep the counter lightly floured, and flip the dough often to prevent it from sticking.
Years ago I picked up a set of tin cookie cutters in graduated sizes of stars. I like to cut stars of all sizes not only because they look like one big star family on the platter but also because people like cookies of different sizes. You have the “I’ll eat only one bite” sort of people, and they choose the small stars. (And then go back for a second!) Then you have those folks who say bigger is better and want the biggest cookie on the plate. I relate to both. To decorate these stars, I whisk together confectioners’ sugar and enough orange juice to make a smooth and slightly thickened icing. Pour this into a plastic squeeze bottle. Once the cookies are cool, drizzle the icing over the cookies in zigzags, or however you like! Let the icing dry before storing.
Prep time: 45 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours to overnight
Bake time: 8 to 10 minutes
Makes 5 dozen (2 1/2-inch to 3-inch) cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 4 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup, molasses, or sorghum
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange juice or water, or as needed
Place the soft butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy and soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute. Fold in the orange zest and corn syrup, molasses, or sorghum until combined.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt into a medium bowl. Fold the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture with a rubber spatula until combined. Chill the dough, covered, at least 2 hours, or overnight.
When ready to bake, place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly flour a work surface and remove the dough from the refrigerator. Scrape about half of the dough onto the work surface. Lightly flour a rolling pin, and firmly tap the dough with the rolling pin until it is about 1 inch thick. Roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness, lightly rolling from the center out to the edges and flipping the dough over every so often so that it does not stick to the work surface. Dust the dough and surface with flour as needed. Cut the dough with star cutters (or the cookie cutter of your choice), pressing firmly down on one stroke. With the help of a metal spatula, transfer the cutouts to un-greased cookie sheets, placing the cookies about 1 inch apart. Keep the remaining dough chilled, press the scraps into a loose ball, and roll the scraps and rest of the dough and cut into shapes. Place a pan in the oven.
Bake the cookies until they are well browned and crisp, eight to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and let the cookies cool on the pan for one minute. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the icing, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice or water in a small bowl until smooth. Using a knife, spread the cookies with icing, and let it set before eating. Or pour the icing into a plastic squeeze bottle and pipe out squiggles, lines, or designs to decorate. These cookies keep up to 1 week in a tightly covered metal container.
Excerpted from “American Cookie.” Copyright © 2018 by Anne Byrn. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Tina Rupp. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House.