Well here we are at the end of January and I am finally getting around to posting about my Christmas cookies. As I am currently living in Spain, it’s a little unfeasible to ask my friends to come on over to my apartment and have a full day cookie-thon. It took me about 24 hours to get to my house in the Seattle area to my apartment here in Seville. That’s a rather large commute. They’d definitely have to sleep over, afterward.
I apologize that this post is not particularly exciting. The pictures aren’t that great, and I certainly didn’t get anywhere near the numbers that I’ve reached in the past. I think I topped out at 200 cookies this year. A friend of mine came over to help for a couple hours, but I spent an astonishing amount of hours alone in the kitchen this year, laptop on Christmas shuffle. Well, with my laptop. My roommates popped in and out, and I dragooned Rosa’s sister Maria to help me decorate spritz at one point. It was strange to not have my army with me. Without the gossip and cookie-based jokes flying around the kitchen, I tired of cookies a lot more quickly than usual.
It took forever, and there were certain drawbacks. Like, lack of space.
The impossibility of finding almond extract.
Almost all my decorating things came in a box from the US.
All my actual cookbooks are still in the US
But I got them done.
And damn, were they well received. Spanish Christmas sweets are almost exclusively olive oil based. They are crumbly and go great with coffee. But they lack the richness of a butter based cookie that we look for, whether in chocolate chip or a snickerdoodle. They have a completely different mouthfeel and I have had three separate people ask me to come over and show them the wonders of an American cookie. I met the extended family of my friend, Sergio, one day when I was over to eat lunch. I met about 6 or 7 new people who had just popped over to say hi, and I was repeatedly introduced as the amiga de galletas, or the cookie friend. The key word, galleta, turned their polite disinterest into excitement. Perhaps she had brought more with her?
A lot of Spanish sweets are almond based, so I went with spritz and Russian/Swedish tea cakes for two of my cookies, in order to not shock any palates and build a bridge of fattening Christmas delight between cultures. We also made a very thin sugar cookie that my friend always has for Christmas. Finally, because so many of my coworkers were asking me about it, I made gingerbread. It is a cookie that everyone knows to associate with Christmas because of stories and movies, but no one has ever tried it nor has any idea what it tastes like. This was the very first time in my life I’ve attempted it. That’s the recipe I’d like to share with you.
aka Those Cookies That Contain Ginger, here.
Kathy is the legal assistant in my mother’s law office. When I finally decided to give gingerbread a try for all the high school teachers and my students, I knew I had to talk with Kathy. All my life, Kathy has been a queen of cookery. Her lemon meringue pie is famous, and when there was a lull in the incoming calls, she would recount stories and recipes of iced tea infusions and fresh bread. But hands down, she is most famous for her gingerbread. When we were little, every year we would receive a gingerbread house. These can easily slide into the traditional but desperately unwanted Christmas gifts like the frequently maligned fruit cake. But the wonderful thing about Kathy’s recipe and the reason that I’m posting this is that Kathy’s gingergread actually tastes good.
I don’t like gingerbread. I like this gingerbread. And that’s that. It’s soft and flavorful, without being overpowering. I advise you all to make a batch of this, share it because it makes a ton, and eat them with coffee instead of going to Starbucks for their seasonal lattes.
So, thanks, Kathy. You are now technically world famous, as these cookies have infiltrated at least 10 Spanish households.
5 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground clove
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 c shortening
1 c sugar
1 c molassas
The only thing I changed is that I used margarine instead of shortening because I have yet to see it on the grocery shelves and I reeeeally wasn’t in the mood to go on another all out search of the city. Especially since I had already done that for powdered sugar, didn’t buy enough and had to fabricate it in batches of half a cup in a food processor.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the salt, baking powder, and spices.
In another bowl, cream the shortening and sugar.
Add the molasses and the egg and mix thoroughly. I shorted the molasses by a tablespoon or two because I wanted a softer flavor, but it ended up not being too necessary. It’s a really tasty mix!
In increments of a cup, stir in the dry ingredients. When all the ingredients are well incorporated, on a well-floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 of an inch. If you want softer cookies, make them slightly thicker.
Cut them into the shapes you want, and bake for 20 minutes.
After removing them from the oven, I glazed them with a very simple mixture of lots of powdered sugar and very little milk.