From a Reader’s Kitchen: Holiday Baking Classics, Perfected

December 8, 2020 Updated: December 8, 2020

‘Tis the season for holiday bakingTo help get us in the spirit, The Epoch Times reader Susan Butler, an enthusiastic baker and tireless recipe tester from West University Place, Texas, generously shared two of her tried-and-true favorites: the easiest rolled sugar cookies you’ll ever make, and a deep, dark gingerbread that took three decades to perfect. Happy baking!

Gingerbread slice
This deep, dark gingerbread recipe is over three decades in the making. (Courtesy of Susan Butler)

One-Pan Sugar Cookie

This is the simplest recipe, fantastic for those not wanting to drop or cut out dough. Anyone can make it. It is surprising, as it has so few ingredients and is always a huge hit. It will make a house smell wonderful!

Makes one 13- x 18-inch pan of cookies

  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut up into cubes
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

For Sprinkling

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (the colored sugars that are popular over the holidays will work, but I personally like the look of regular granulated sugar)

Prepare a 13- x 18-inch jelly roll pan (not an unrimmed cookie sheet), and two sheets of parchment paper about the same size as the pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt, and mix until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Scrape down sides and make sure it is all well incorporated.

With the mixer on slow speed, add flour and mix until just incorporated. The dough will be dense and sometimes a little crumbly.

Lay one sheet of parchment paper on a flat working surface and place the dough on top. Squeeze the dough all together to make a flat disk. Place the second piece of parchment paper on top and roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. At this point, you can also freeze the dough and keep it for up to a month before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Transfer the entire rolled-out rectangle of dough, including the parchment paper, to the jelly roll pan. Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar evenly on top of the cold dough. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned.

After removing the cookie from the oven, while it is still warm, use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut diagonal lines throughout the entire cookie. Repeat in the opposite direction. This will give you little diamond-shaped cookies. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes.

OnePanSugarCookie
Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to slice your giant cookie into little diamonds. (Courtesy of Susan Butler)

Old-Fashioned Glazed Gingerbread

This is a very old-fashioned, rich, molasses-flavored gingerbread. I have tested and worked on this recipe for over 35 years. It wasn’t until last year that I was able to get the results that I was hoping for from testing multiple recipes.

Makes one 9- x 13-inch cake, or three 6- x 3.5-inch mini loaves

  • 1 cup molasses (I use Grandma’s Original)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper or finely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup boiling water (see directions)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the Glaze

  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon molasses

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a 9- x 13-inch baking pan (my favorite brand is USA Pan), or for gifts and freezing, use three 6- x 3.5-inch (1-pound) disposable aluminum loaf pans. I spray the baking pan(s) with Baker’s Joy or Pam’s Baker Spray.

This recipe works best with a stand mixer. Begin by mixing the molasses, sugar, melted butter, and oil in the bowl of the mixer. This needs to be mixed very well, typically at least 4 to 5 minutes on medium.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla, then add them to the stand mixer bowl and again mix on medium for another 4 to 5 minutes. You want the sugar to dissolve into the other wet ingredients, and to add air to the mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix the following dry ingredients together so they are well combined: flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and white or black pepper. Add this combined mixture to the wet ingredients in the stand mixer and mix until it is all well incorporated, but do not overmix. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is well blended.

Last thing will be to add the boiling water and baking soda. I use a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup filled with 1 cup water. Microwave the water until boiling (or you can use a tea kettle). Add the 1 teaspoon baking soda to the cup and stir. It will fizz up, which is why I use a larger measuring cup.

With the stand mixer on slow, very slowly pour the water onto the side of the bowl and let it drizzle down the side into the mixture. You will notice that the batter is very soupy. It will surprise you, but it’s OK! Once all the water is well incorporated, mix on medium for about 1 minute—carefully, as it will splatter. You can drape a kitchen towel on top of the stand mixer to help with any splashing. Scrape well with a spatula, then pour into the prepared baking pan(s).

Baking time will vary depending on the size of the pan(s). For a 9- x 13-inch baking pan, bake for 30 minutes, and then lay a loose piece of foil on top and bake for another 10 minutes. For mini loaf pans, place all three on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes, then place a loose piece of foil on top and bake another 10 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake(s) should come out clean, with no signs of wet ingredients.

For the glaze, mix the three ingredients together using a fork. Right before glazing, you can microwave it for a few seconds to help the ingredients stay incorporated. Brush the cake with glaze immediately after removing from the oven, while it is hot.

gingerbread loaf gifts
Mini loaves of gingerbread make great holiday gifts. (Courtesy of Susan Butler)