There are foods that only seem to be around at Christmas time like eggnog and gingerbread. I absolutely love eggnog and I always know it’s time to get excited about Christmas when it appears again in the grocery store. Except this year the eggnog showed up at Halloween and the carton had a witch on it. Huh? Okay, I still bought it but it was weird marketing for sure.
Now gingerbread is another story. I don’t like the stuff and never have. But everyone in my family loves it so I decided to give in this year and try making a batch of gingerbread cookies. Of course, I had to tinker with the classic recipe, and my three changes led to a result that was…amazing. Seriously, I love these cookies. I know, I can’t believe it myself. What’s my secret? Brown butter, real vanilla and essential oils, baby! Yum!
I spent some time searching the internet for ginger cookie recipes and every recipe I found was exactly the same with the occasional slight variation in the amount of flour. I changed it up by replacing the spices with essential oils. The problem with the spices in most american cupboards is that they are old. After a year, ground spices start to lose their aroma and potency and my guess is that the spices in your cupboard are a lot older than a year. My jar of powdered ginger didn’t smell anything like ginger. So I used my trusty essential oils which smell and taste amazing. I only use pure certified essential oils that are pure enough to take internally. Whatever brand you use just make sure it says FOR INTERNAL or DIETARY USE on the bottle.
I also added real vanilla to the recipe because every cookie recipe needs vanilla. Period. And finally, because it’s my new obsession, I switched the vegetable shortening to browned butter.
Brown butter is the bomb! I have used it in several varieties of cookies and and it really takes the flavor over the top. I have also used it on popcorn, lightly drizzled with a little salt, and it received two enthusiastic thumbs up. Just cooking the butter a little past the melting point causes the milk solids in the butter to brown, creating a wonderfully nutty flavor and aroma. You can use this with butter-based sauces, baked goods or vegetables that you saute in butter.
Brown Butter–Cut up butter and place in frying pan. Turn on heat to medium and using a whisk, stir constantly until butter melts. Continues to whisk melted butter until it turns brown and has a nutty aroma, about 5 minutes. It can go from browned to burned very quickly so don’t stop whisking or walk away. If you’re wondering if it’s done–it is. Immediately move the pan to a cool surface to stop the cooking process. Pat yourself on the back for being a great chef even though you didn’t go to culinary school!
The dough will be pretty stiff after mixing. Put it in a container with a lid and leave it in your refrigerator for at least 2 hours or even overnight. It also freezes well so for convenience I always double the recipe. This fits in perfectly with my “work now, relax later” farm girl mentality. Seriously, it’s just as easy to make a double-batch of cookies as a single-batch and doubling it will give you enough to freeze some for later. You’ll thank me the next time you want gingerbread cookies and then you see that container of dough in your freezer just smiling back at you. Happy, happy, happy.
After being in the fridge for a while the dough will be to hard to scoop unless you work out a lot in which case you’re probably not making cookies anyway. For the rest of us it’s a good idea to leave the dough out on the counter for 10–15 minutes to soften a bit. Or you can just scoop it while it’s hard and consider that your workout for the week. Once you’ve rolled the dough into a ball, roll it in white sugar and place it on a cookie sheet. Give them plenty of space as these babies will spread.
These Brown Butter Gingerbread Cookies are Christmas on a plate. I’ve made several batches in the last few weeks and everyone who’s tried them has raved. Nobody has managed to eat just one, myself included. Consider yourself warned! Happy, but warned.
Brown Butter Gingerbread Cookies
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup butter, browned and then cooled until solidified
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup molasses (I prefer full flavor)
2 drops ginger essential oil (or 1 tsp. powdered ginger)
1 drop cassia or cinnamon essential oil (or 1 tsp. powdered cinnamon)
1 drop clove essential oil (or 1/2 tsp. powdered cloves)
1/3 cup sugar (to roll dough in)
Brown the butter following the directions above. Allow brown butter to cool until solidified (putting it in the refrigerator will speed this up).
Sift flour, baking soda and salt together, set aside. In a stand mixer cream together both sugars and solidified brown butter. Add in egg, vanilla, molasses and the essential oils and beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture in two parts. Put dough in a covered container and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F. Shape dough into about 1 1/2″ balls and roll thoroughly in sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 3″ apart so cookies can spread. Bake for 9-11 minutes, making sure to remove them from oven when they look slightly under-done. This will ensure a soft, chewy cookie. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes and enjoy. Store uneaten cookies (yeah, right!) in an airtight container or plastic bag.
Makes about 2 dozen. Unless you doubled the recipe like I told you to and then it makes 2 dozen now and 2 dozen for later. You’re welcome!