I am so not a “Black Friday” shopper. I don’t fare well in crowds of bargain insanity. Gifts at majorly discounted prices, while enticing, simply aren’t worth my mental well being and I’m not sure that I could recover from that sort of retail hell. I commend those of you that can handle all that spirited heat, but I’ll stick to weekday and internet shopping.
I’ll just be one less person in the holiday horde.
Truth is, I’ve been in the mood for Christmas since the beginning of November, but I held back my holiday-spirit-crazy and waited for the day after Thanksgiving. Instead of shopping it up on “Black Friday”, I like to bust out all of my Christmas decor, our well loved fake tree (don’t hate, it’s pre-lit and not a fire hazard), light some pine-y candles, drink some coffee with Bailey’s, and deck those halls. I love trimming the tree and I have quite the ornament collection. Most are from a childhood tradition of picking an ornament out every year–one each for my mom, brother, and myself. I carry on this tradition with Sean. It’s pretty much my favorite and makes for an eclectic tree covered in Barbies and robots, sweet treats and dinosaurs, dragons and glittered baubles. This year I discovered that I have nearly 20 heart ornaments as well…apparently I love heart shaped things.
Another thing I love about the holidays are the cookies. If there were a season for cookie-baking and eating, this would be it. To commemorate this season of sugar and spice, I baked up a batch of citrus-y gingerbread tree cut-outs. When I worked in a bakery before we moved, I cut-out, literally, thousands of sugar, chocolate, and gingerbread cookies, then decorated them and it really wore me out on cut-out cookies for a while. I enjoy decorating cookies for fun these days but, nothing too fancy. They are spicy from ginger, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and a little black pepper, and zesty from lemon and mandarin. They aren’t too sweet, but a little vanilla scented royal icing makes them just sweet enough and pretty too.
Citrus Gingerbread Trees
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Holiday Cookies Magazine 2010
Makes about 24 trees
2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed, dark brown sugar
zest of 3 mandarins and 1 meyer lemon, about 2 tablespoons of zest, loosely packed (can use any citrus zest you like)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger root
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the rolling surface
royal icing , sanding sugar, disco dust, and sugar pearls for decorating
Beat the butter, brown sugar, zests, and fresh ginger together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the egg and mix well. Beat in the molasses. In a separate bowl whisk together cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, baking soda, salt and flour. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, mixing just until incorporated. Divide dough into quarters, shape into disks and wrap well with plastic. Chill for 3-24 hours.
Preheat oven to 375F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 disk of dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out shapes using desired cookie cutters and place on parchment or silicone lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling scraps as needed. Chill cut-outs on baking sheets for 20 minutes, until firm.
Bake 2 sheets at a time, rotating pans halfway through, for 12-15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.
adapted from Joy of Baking
4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons warm water (more or less for desired consistency)
Using an electric mixer, combine sugar and meringue powder, add vanilla and water and beat until glossy and stiff peaks form. Dilute with water as needed for desired consistency. Spoon icing into bowls and stir in food coloring to combine. Either use immediately or store in an airtight container. Fit icing bags with tips and fill with desired colors. Ice cookies as desired, sprinkle with sanding sugar while icing is wet, and allow to dry uncovered, at room temperature overnight to harden.