Halloween-themed Gingerbread Cookies

Baking date: October 31, 2018

Each Friday night there is a home game for our varsity football team, the families provide a dinner for them and the coaches. I usually don’t get the sign up information until late, and dessert is always taken by the time I log on.

For the final game of the season, we invite the varsity cheerleaders to join the meal. I asked the team mom to put my name down for desserts before she launched the potluck sign up.

I made gingerbread cut out cookies that I could decorate with royal icing. I used a recipe from the Mary Meade’s Country Cook Book:

Ingredients: 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 8 cups flour (yes, 8  cups!), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup boiling water

Directions: Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg – set aside (for amounts this large, I place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk to “sift” them). Beat egg in small bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, molasses and vinegar.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (it will fizz up!). Add water alternately with flour mixture. Chill at least one hour prior to rolling out.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes (oven temps and cook times may vary, also the size of the cookie may mean more or less baking time).

I made some generic Halloween-themed cookies, using white, black, orange, red, purple and green cookie icing, a variety of sprinkles, as well as large and regular candy eyeballs. (Wilton also makes bloodshot eyeball candies – next year!)img_2111img_2113

There were also cookies with royal blue and golden yellow cookie icing, which are the team colors. There was also one huge pumpkin that I shaped from the remaining dough.

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Here are the cookies on the plates:

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The players and cheerleaders were well fed and enjoyed the cookies. Thanks for a great season to all of them!

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Football Player Mummy Gingerbread Cookies

Baking date: October 26, 2018

This year, my son helped to coach players in the junior football program he grew up in. The kids on the team he helped to coach are 6th and 7th graders, who are on the D2 team. The D2 team is more of an instructional level than the competitive D1 squad.

My son always played on the D1 squad when he was in the program. His D2 team made it to a “Bowl” game, that took place October 27. Because it was so close to Halloween, I decided to make the players and coaches football player “mummies”.

I used a gingerbread cookie recipe my mom sent me from the Mary Meade Country Cookbook. The edition my mom has is probably from the mid- to late- 60s. The recipe is:

Ingredients: 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 8 cups flour (yes, 8  cups!), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup boiling water

Directions: Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg – set aside (for amounts this large, I place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk to “sift” them). Beat egg in small bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, molasses and vinegar.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (it will fizz up!). Add water alternately with flour mixture. Chill at least one hour prior to rolling out.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes (time may vary, depending on your oven and the size of your cut out cookie. The gingerbread man cut out I used was 14 minutes).

When decorating the cookies, I started with an all white royal icing base. I then piped on a black royal icing square where the eyes would go – I got the idea for the eyes from a Nicki Lee Bakes video tutorial. At first, I thought it looked like a bunch of astronauts!

Spacemen

After I added the red royal icing and then candy eyeballs, I added strips of white using a #46 basket weave tip.  I then used royal blue cookie icing (pre-made royal icing, if you will) to pipe on the helmets, with royal icing dyed golden yellow for the facemask and stripes on the helmet. Finally, I added each players’ number in royal blue cookie icing.

Here are the finished cookies for players:

Player Cookies

These are a few on the ones that I made for the seven coaches (including my son), For those, I piped a baseball hat instead of a helmet:

Coach Cookies

And, of course, we can’t forget the Team “Mummy”:

Team Mummy

I placed each cookie in a treat bag. After the game, as the coaches spoke to them, I handed out cookies to the kids and coaches. I also had made cinnamon spice drop cookies (I use butter, not shortening) for parents, siblings and other fans in attendance.

The kids were a muddy mess after the Bowl game:

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Even though they lost, the kids loved the cookies! I believe you should always be paying it forward as much as possible. Cookies were one way I could do that for these kids.

Below is a slide show of my gentle giant (Walkersville High School varsity O-line tackle), with the kids throughout the season.

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Christmas Goodies for Co-Workers

Baking date: December 17, 2017

Each year, I make goodie bags for my immediate team (6 individuals, including my supervisor). In addition, I make a variety of cookies (small cut outs of gingerbread and sugar) to share with the people on my floor.

This year, the base cookie was a gingerbread cookie. I decorated one for each team member with their name, and then filled the boxes with some mini-breads, other generically decorated gingerbread and sugar cookies and a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Here are the personalized cookies, along with some of the generically decorated cookies, mini-breads and gingersnaps:

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Here are more of the sugar and gingerbread cookies:

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Here’s the assembly line of cookies and boxed treats for my team:

Assemblyline

As one person commented: “Thoughtful, personal, and edible – I like it! Great job.”

 

Annual Family Christmas Cookie Exchange

Baking date: December 18, 2015

Each year — as long as a snow storm doesn’t ruin it (some of my family lives 2.5 hours away) — I invite my mom, sisters, aunts and cousins to my house for a cookie decorating party. It started out as a cookie bake, but that seemed crazy with one oven, 5 or 6 different cookies to bake, and everyone’s travel time factored in.

So I modified the event. Now, attendees bring a selection of baked cookies and I make cut out cookies. We decorate the cookies, then have lunch, and everyone shares the cookies they brought and takes home some of the decorated cookies.

This year, I made gingerbread cut outs, sugar cookie cut outs, and shortbread cut outs. My uncle is allergic to eggs, so that’s the reason for the shortbread cookies.

I provide the icing and decorations. Once we finish decorating the cookies, we have lunch – typically deli meats, cheeses, and the fixings for sandwiches, along with potato salad, pasta salad, and fresh fruit.

After lunch, we divvy up and package the cookies everyone brought so each person can take some home. By that time, the decorated cookies are dry enough.

This year, the cut out cookie shapes were Christmas trees, stockings, rounds, candy canes, bells, snowmen, and gingerbread men.

Here are the cookies up close, as well as a shot of the whole table full.

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My friend Rebecca’s daughter Sami has joined the fun the past few years. She had a basketball game and arrived after lunch. She hung out with me after everyone left and we decorated cookies in the early to mid-afternoon. I was taking her home around 4:00pm, as she, her brothers and her dad were going to see the new Star Wars movie that evening. Her designs included a homage to some of her favorite things:

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…like the Pittsburgh Steelers…

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…a beautiful wreath — channeling her designer parents’ talent…

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…a salute to the new Star Wars movie…

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…and this clever creation – she even broke off the leg. Oh Snap! indeed.

Sami and I decorated a bunch of cookies, although I did the most decorating. She focused on a few cookies, but spent a good deal of the time eating the decorations right out of the containers. I was able to send her back to her dad all sugared up!

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Sami had a great time.

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That green smile is from eating all the decorations!

And so did I. Every year, it’s a tradition that means a great deal to me.

Christmas Goodies for Friends

Baking Date: December 8, 2013

Two of my former colleagues and I try to meet for lunch once every other month. We pick a restaurant, based on the alphabet and get together to catch up. We’ve already been through the alphabet once, and are back to the letter A.

We had plans to get together today (December 10) for our Christmas lunch. But Mother Nature had other plans. We all work at Associations that follow the government operating schedule. Because the government closed, none of us were at work today.

But I was ready with gift baskets for both of my pals.  They included Snickerdoodle mini-breads and reindeer gingerbread cookies.

The Snickerdoodle bread recipe is a good one, but sometimes the cinnamon chips are hard to find unless it is the holidays. I also think that this bread is good when it is warmed up in the microwave (10-15 seconds if it’s a slice of the full size loaf; 20-25 seconds if it is a mini-loaf).

I made mini-loaves for my friends. My kitchen smelled so good when they came out of the oven.

Just out of the oven

Just out of the oven

Of course, the extra loaves are gladly taste-tested by my family.

These are for my taste-testers.

These are for my taste-testers.

I also made reindeer gingerbread cookies. I was inspired by this photo I saw making the rounds on Facebook:

The inspiration...

The inspiration…

The base is a gingerbread man cookie, just flipped and decorated to look like a reindeer. So, I decided to try my luck at it.

Here’s a bit of what I learned:

  • it’s easy to do the eyes, when you take a short cut of candy eyeballs (they come in regular and large size) and attach them using frosting
  • I used a medium size cookie cutter — in the future, I might go with a larger size gingerbread man cookie cutter to make the antlers better and add in eyebrows, like on the inspiration cookies
  • I used cookie icing for the antlers, ears and noses. I purchased the Christmas package at a local crafts store, with white, red, and green icings.  You warm it in the microwave to soften it. The only concern here is that you can’t regulate the flow of the icing, like you can when you use a specific tip and piping bag of icing. Also, the warm icing tended too ooze a bit more than I had anticipated.  If I do these cookies in the future, I’ll just have red, white, and black icing in piping bags with tips for greater control.
  • I dyed some white icing black, and piped that on for the mouths using just a plastic bag with a small corner cut out.  That worked really well (compared to the red and white icing application!).

So here’s the result:

Some are better than others.

Some are better than others.

This wasn't a level surface, which added to the ooze factor.

This wasn’t a level surface, which added to the ooze factor.

In the end, I decided to post this to Facebook and Pinterest in an effort to humble myself and give my friends a chuckle:

Nailed It!

Nailed It!

My friends got the versions that did not make it to the “Nailed it” photo. In spite of the way they look — they taste great!