The holidays are not complete without crisp, molasses-flavored gingerbread men and women. Decorate with powdered sugar icing for piping.
Sunset NOVEMBER 2003
1. In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, espresso powder, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir or beat into butter mixture until well blended.
2. Divide dough in half. Flatten each portion with your hands into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap each disk airtight and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
3. On a lightly floured board, with a floured rolling pin, roll dough, a portion at a time, to 1/4 inch thick. With floured cutters, cut dough into people shapes (if dough becomes too soft to handle, freeze briefly until firm again). With a wide spatula or your fingers, transfer cookies to buttered or cooking parchment-lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Gather scraps, pat into a ball, and repeat rolling and cutting.
4. Bake cookies in a 300° oven until edges are brown, 15 to 20 minutes; if baking more than one pan at a time, switch pan positions halfway through baking.
5. With a wide spatula, transfer cookies to racks to cool. If hot cookies start to break, slide a thin spatula under them to release, let stand on sheets to firm up, about 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Powdered sugar icing: Controlling consistency of icing is simple. If it's too thick, add a few drops of water; if it's too thin, gradually add more powdered sugar. To tint, add food coloring a few drops at a time.
For piping: In a bowl, stir 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/2 tablespoons water until smooth. Tint with food coloring as desired. Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/8-inch tip or a heavy 1-quart zip-lock plastic bag. Seal plastic bag and squeeze icing into a corner; cut a tiny opening at corner of bag to squeeze icing out. Let cookies stand until icing is firm, about 5 minutes. Makes about 3/4 cup.
Nutritional analysis is per cookie.
Once the icing is dry, you can store the cookies airtight for up to 1 week.
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