Baby showers are strange and wonderful parties. There is, to be certain, lots to celebrate, but it felt a bit strange that my little bun sat snugly in my belly all Sunday afternoon as we prematurely celebrated her homecoming.
I am quite certain she enjoyed it, however. The food and treats were spectacular. Our friends and loved ones were adoring and brilliant. There was lots of love in the air and the new babies present were full of vim and vigor– little windows into our sunny future.
While I was told to sit back and relax on the day of the shower, that was just a ridiculous request. And, besides, I like to bake and cook. It relaxes me and I firmly believe my little one reaps the benefits of a relaxed mother who regularly bathes in the glorious aromas of an active kitchen. Speaking of which, I decided the smell of homemade gingerbread baking in the oven comes darn close to the heavenly scent of a freshly baked loaf of bread. My house smelled reminiscent of holidays and childhood. Gingery. Earthy and Sweet. It was beyond lovely.
And, while I’ve previously baked gingerbread, I will admit to past failures. Sometimes, the gingerbread was too hard. Sometimes, it was too sweet. And, on several occasions, the balance of ginger, cinnamon, and sugar was just not right. This recipe, however, was ideal. I knew it would be for two reasons. First, it is the recipe from Tartine, which is a wonderful bakery in the Mission District of my hometown of San Francisco. Second, I managed to taste test it first when dear A brought me several fresh pieces of gingerbread during a high-powered baby store consignment trip we took recently. Many thanks to A for the introduction and for allowing me to borrow the Tartine cookbook. It’s a must-buy! If I could go back in time, I might even add it to my baby registry. I do believe I read somewhere that growing babies deserve many such wonderful treats.
If you are doubting the veracity of the above statement, here is the proof. My little bun is doing her best to get a hold of that freshly baked and glazed gingerbread. Indeed, she edges closer to the counter everyday. She is bound to like sweets as much as her mother.
3 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/4 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
Granulated sugar 1 large egg
1/2 cup blackstrap or other dark molasses
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons water
To make the dough, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and mix on medium speed until the mixture is completely smooth and soft. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and mix well.
Add the molasses and corn syrup and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer again and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and all the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it on a large piece of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 1 inch thick, cover the dough with the plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner.
Unwrap the dough and place on a floured work surface. If using a plaque with a design, roll out the dough 1/3 inch thick, lightly dust the top with flour, press your cookie molds over the dough, and then cut out the shapes with a small knife and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Alternatively, using the mold as a guide, cut around it with a small knife, flip the mold over so the design is facing you, and place the dough over it, pressing it into the design. Unmold the shapes onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them.
If using a patterned rolling pin, lightly dust the lined baking sheet with flour and transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and roll it into a rectangle about 1/3 inch thick with a plain pin. Then, using the patterned pin, roll over the dough with enough pressure to ensure a clear impression of the design. Trim the sides with a small knife. It is not necessary to cut into smaller sizes before baking.
Bake the cookies until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers, 7 to 15 minutes. The timing will depending on the size of the individual cookies, or if you have made a single large patterned piece that will be cut after baking.
While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and water until smooth.
When the cookies are ready, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then, while the cookies are still warm, using even strokes, brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie, evenly covering it. Let the cookies cool completely. When the glaze dries, it should leave a shiny, opaque finish. If you have used a patterned pin to make a single large plaque, cut into the desired sizes with a small, very sharp knife. The cookies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for about 2 weeks.