counting down and crossing off

 Ok folks, we're getting short on time, so let's do a quick run-down of what's already been checked off:
  • all gifts have been bought/made,
  • almost all non-Santa gifts have been wrapped,
  • Christmas cards finally made it out the door,
  • chocolate sandwich cookies have been dipped in mint chocolate and decorated,
  • Santa has been visited and snuggled with and given the best possible wish lists ("stuff" and a real vacuum),
  • cranberry chocolate chip bread has been made,
  • pie crust is chilling (which will become the base for this),
  • my great-grandmother's traditional anise Christmas cookie dough is chilling,
  • both sick children have finally crossed over the threshold and are headed into well,
  • gingerbread cookies have been baked,
  • various nuts/fruit pastes/cheeses have been bought for Christmas day snacking,
and (lest you begin to view me as too much of an over-achiever),
  • the lace scarf that I began to knit over two years ago, intending to give it to my mother for each consecutive Mother's Day/birthday/Christmas, is so close to being done that I've prematurely crossed it off, too.
Oh yeah, and enough snow fell last night that it appears we may have a white Christmas after all! So things are good here. Despite the fact that last night, in an exhaustion-and-illness-induced delirium, I blurted out Josh's Christmas present to him. Me, the one who hates spoiling Christmas surprises more than anyone. The one who, as a child, always needed to be told exactly where all the Christmas gifts were being stored, in order to give that sacred space a wide enough berth to prevent any accidental discoveries. Me. I ruined Josh's Christmas. (Well, not really, as Josh has been sweet enough to point out numerous times. But still, it's quite out of character of me, and I'm kicking myself for the slip. Josh, on the other hand, thinks it's amusing and charming. Lovely man.)

Anyway, tomorrow is Christmas Eve and things are pretty much under control around here. Of course, we leave in the morning for my parent's house and no packing has been done, or even been given much thought. And those anise cookies still need to be rolled, cut, baked, cooled, and iced - I'm stalling on that one because I can't decide if it would be wisest to involve the kids in the project, or keep them occupied and unaware with a holiday video in the other room. And, sadly, the blog post I had planned for you two days ago never appeared. (Remind me to never sign up for 60 inches of lace and cabling again!)

I was going to tell you about these gingerbread cookies I remember making with my mother many, many years ago. About how they were soft and tender and friendly, somehow. We decorated them with raisins and I'm pretty sure Mom switched out the white flour for whole wheat and would have used honey instead of white sugar, and I was small enough that I needed to stand on a chair, and even then only remember the counter being chest-height. I wanted to talk to you about the curious fact that I don't think it was Christmas-time when we made those cookies, and yet they are THE Christmas gingerbread cookie goal of every batch I've made for the past few years. That decades-old memory just has a festive feel to it, in spite of the absence of an actual holiday. I was even going to poke some gentle fun at Mom, who insists she can't remember making the cookies with me and that I must be thinking of something I did with my grandmother, and yet when Dad grabbed the first baking book he could find, he immediately found the right recipe, with Mom's notes all over it. Go figure.

But like I said, it's almost Christmas and my to-do list still needs a bit more of my attention. As do all the dishes piled up in the kitchen. And my children could use some more parent-child interaction, although they honestly don't realize it, reveling as they are in the novelty of being allowed to watch a video more than once a week.

And yet . . . it is almost Christmas. And with all the focus on giving and sharing, I can't let go of the feeling that I want to give all of you one more thing before I sign off for the holiday weekend. Even if you've already finished your holiday baking. Even if you're completely cookied-out, as so many of us are at this point. I want you to have this recipe. Because, as my memory reminds me, gingerbread cookies don't have to be just for Christmas. The warm spices and decorating-with-kids fun are perfect all winter long, and will be welcomed even without a backdrop of jingle bells and twinkling lights. And if making them reminds you of the coziness of the holiday season? Well, that sounds like a memorable baking experience if ever I heard one.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, my friends! May you eat, drink and be merry!

Soft Gingerbread Cookies
yields 3 to 4 dozen, depending on the size of your cookie cutters

2 oz (57 grams/4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
108 grams (1/2 cup, packed) light brown sugar
155 grams (1/2 fluid cup) molasses
80 grams (1/4 fluid cup) mild honey
1 large egg
410 grams Tara's gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
36 grams teff flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp guar gum
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp finely ground black pepper
2 fluid oz (1/4 fluid cup) water

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer), cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the molasses and honey. Add the egg, mixing until combined. (Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled.)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, gums, baking soda, spices, salt, and pepper. Add half of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, mixing on low speed until just combined, scraping down the paddle and sides of the bowl as needed. Pour in the water, and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour and mix until fully combined.

Divide the dough into two pieces (it's going to be very sticky), wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Have ready parchment- or wax paper-lined baking sheets.

On a well floured board, roll out one piece of cookie dough to about 1/8 inch thick. As long as you work quickly and keep the dough dusted with flour, it shouldn't be at all hard to work with. If the dough gets too warm it will become too sticky; pop it back in the fridge to cool a bit. Using cookie cutters, cut out cookies into desired shapes and place on prepared baking sheets. Repeat with other half of dough. Scraps may be rerolled and cut, up to two more times.

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until their surface is dry and they indent slightly when you gently touch them, but are not yet beginning to get noticeably darker. (Unless, of course, you want a crispy gingerbread cookie. In that case just bake them longer and you'll end up with cookies strong enough to use for gingerbread houses!) Cool completely on a rack, then decorate as desired. Cookies keep, wrapped airtight and at room temperature, for up to three days.


  1. What a lovely written post! You have been busy, busy, busy!

    These gf gingerbread men are looking good & tasty too!
    I wish you & your family a lovely, white & joyfull Christmas filled with good company & fab good food!

  2. Thank you, Sophie! I hope your holiday is joyful and delicious!

  3. Isn't checking things off a to-do list one of the most satisfying things ever? I hope you and your family get to enjoy your time together.

    Have a wonderful Christmas, and enjoy your gingerbread men!

  4. Amy - I am totally a list maker, and sometimes I think it's mostly for the satisfaction of crossing things off! I hope your Christmas was joyful!

    Juanita - Happy Holidays to you, as well! And Happy New Year!

  5. These look delicious. Hop you had wonderful holidays with your family. Happy 2011!

  6. El - Thank you! 2011 is already looking very, very bright. All the best to you!

  7. Hi, Tara! I am trying to add your Blog to my "blog roll" on Wordpress. I need the full address to do that, as I have not been successful yet. You can check it out at (www.autismrox.wordpress.com)I do bake, but have been focused on other foods and need to provide a link for baked goods, and yours has THE BEST PICTURES EVER!!! Thanks, Silky

  8. Goodness you've been busy! I love that you blurted out to Josh what you had bought him! Ha! I hope what he got you was a surprise though, on Christmas Day.

    It sounds like you probably had a great Christmas and New Year though.
    Much love to you and your family!

  9. gingerbread men looks very tasty. I really liked your post very much. This recipe is a must try and I am definitely looking forward to prepare it. I wish every one a very happy and prosperous New Year.

  10. Silky - Hi! I'd love to be added to your blog roll! By "full address," do you mean the URL? If so, it's http://abakinglife.blogspot.com
    Let me know if you need anything else, and thank you!

    Mr. Jackhonky - Busy? That's an understatement! But in a good way, so I can't complain. And yes, the gift Josh got me was a HUGE, wonderful surprise! :) Much love to you and AJ!

    skin care - Thank you so much! I know some will cringe when they read this, but a couple of those gingerbread cookies actually survived past Christmas, got forgotten about for a few days, and I finally finished them off a full 2 weeks after I baked them, and they were still great! So the recipe is definitely a keeper! Happy New Year to you, too!


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