This year at Christmas I determined we would make cookies to hang on the tree. We don’t have many decorations, and the old-fashioned idea really appealed to me.
Sadly, my immune system had a different idea and I was sick when we set up the tree. The kids ended up decorating the tree with whatever they could find (which included very few “real” ornaments). In the end, it looked like a festive unicorn threw up on it, but wasn’t exactly pretty. I love Christmas trees and ours have always looked a little chaotic, but I found it is possible to have a Christmas tree subtract from the Christmas decor. Still, the kids liked it and Christmas decor is hardly the reason for the season so I tried not to be too bummed.
Still… I kept thinking about those pretty gingerbread cookies I wanted to make.
In 2018 I am publishing a new series called Worth Decorating. The series will feature desserts that are a bit out of my keeping-it-simple norm while still being doable. A bit more indulgent, but still focusing on real food without any dyes and prioritizing whole foods.
When thinking about my first installment of this series, gingerbread was still on my mind. I had a sprouted flour recipe I was itching to share and reasoned that gingerbread is more of a winter than Christmas thing especially if I did snowflakes. So, here it is. I hope you enjoy this new series.
The recipe for the gingerbread is at the bottom of the post, but first I want to give detailed instructions on how I (and later the kids) decorated them.
Note: the decorating instructions and recipes include affiliate links to products I recommend. Purchases through said links cost nothing extra, but I earn a small commission. I usually throw something snarky into the disclaimer but have snowflakes not humor on my mind. To the 1 person who has ever read these, I apologize for my lack of snarkiness.
When I can make desserts with more nutritious ingredients, I try to. These are not exactly health foods (nor would I want them to be) but since gingerbread is already hearty you would hardly know they are made with whole grain sprouted flour. I also subbed out the white sugar with coconut sugar. Lastly, I made sure to use plenty of spices because I love strong gingerbread. Nothing complicated, or revolutionary but more in line with our new year resolutions about eating more whole food/real food. The addition of coffee makes them darker, which works better with the light brown icing, as well as tasting delicious. It is optional though.
It bakes up firm, spicy, beautifully dark, and ready to dip into a glass of milk!
Cutting The Snow Flakes
The first step of turning a lump of dough into snowflakes is, of course, cutting them out. There are many ways to do this, and many different cookie cutter sets. I wanted one that allowed me to make each snowflake unique. Gingerbread is pretty forgiving, so you can take your time cutting it out.
I chose this set of nestling snowflakes with a pretty basic shape. I knew I wanted to enhance the snowflaked-ness of the cookies individually. To do that, I use used a set of mini-geometric cookie cutters and whatever icing tips I had on hand.
I cut out each cookie differently, taking advantage of the variety of snowflake sizes, geometric shapes, etc. I used the 6 point shape to guide me and cut away little by little until I had a unique design. I made sure to leave all intact dough between 1/4 and 1/2″wide for sturdiness and consistent baking.
The grid above shows 3 of them step by step being cut out so I can explain what I did.
1. A photo before any cuts so I could make the grid 3×3.
2. The basic snowflake cut out. Since I had nesting snowflakes I did a variety of sizes but mostly the medium-sized snowflakes because they were the easiest to handle.
3. The center cut out with different shapes.
4. Enhancing the outer groove with different geometric shapes.
5. – 8. different snowflakes had different cuts to make each one unique.
9. A photo of the cookies after being baked also added to make the 3×3 grid.
Icing the Cookies
The most fun part is icing. Assuming you don’t like feeling your fingers that is. No, really I do enjoy it! I will say cookies this detailed would be most fun doing with a group of people or do a little at a time when not racing the clock. I enjoyed myself but could have had more fun if I wasn’t racing and stressing. Ah. Live and learn. Live and learn again. Because I manage to stress and race with everything I do. Seriously? Don’t take snowflakes so seriously. That should be on a motivational poster somewhere.
The frosting I chose was royal icing made with coconut sugar (powdered in the blender). If you want a more striking snowflake (especially if not using the coffee in the dough) then you can use a classic royal icing recipe. Usually, I would do that, and used regular powdered sugar for the kids’ ones but also wanted to challenge myself to make these 100% “whole food”.
My idea for icing was similar to cutting. I would use the basic shape of the cookie and slowly build in lines, outlines, and dots to enhance snowflake shape and have unique cookies. I took a photo grid one to show how the shape of one of them was created. While each one was different, the method of icing them was the same. I would start by outlining a part of the cookie, or drawing a line from the center outward, then would slowly build upon each new line. I made sure to use a frosting bag with a coupler so I could switch out tips and I used Wilton #1 (all the narrow lines) and Wilton #3 when I wanted a thick striking line.
The Kids Decorating
I let the kids have all the cutters and icing I used, but they ended up getting frustrated because this frosting was a little on the thicker side to keep the lines crisp. In the end, they kept it pretty simple. Mostly small snowflakes with the center cut out. They piped a little but mostly dipped in a powdered sugar glaze (just powdered sugar and water) and dipped in either coconut or crushed freeze-dried strawberries.
- 6 cups sprouted wheat flour (be sure to scoop into the measuring cup)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
- ½ tsp fine ground salt
- 1 cup salted butter
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup
- 3 TBSP coffee that has been ground to a fine powder in a coffee grinder (optional, but delicious and makes the gingerbread browner).
- In a large bowl sift together flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs and molasses, stir until combined.
- Add the flour and coffee, if using, and stir in until well incorporated.
- Chill, in a covered container, 1 hour.
- When ready to roll let sit out a few minutes (it is a very stiff dough) before rolling out ¼" thick. Cut into shapes (see post for how I cut it into snowflakes).
- Bake 12-14 minutes, or until the edges darken slightly and look set.
- Allow cool completely before icing. Ice with the coconut royal icing (see post for a description of how I did it) shown below or classic royal icing if you want white.
- These are best the next day as they take a few hours to firm up.
- Put the egg whites, vanilla, and 2½ cups powdered sugar in the stand mixer. Mix until everything is incorporated. It will be quite dark. Whisk on high for 3-4 minutes, It will lighten somewhat in color and increased in volume. The color will lighten further as it dries.
- Use a spoon to scoop up the frosting and make sure the frosting is thin enough to stream from the spoon (slowly). Stream a line of the frosting on the countertop to make sure it is thick enough to hold
it's shapeand not spread. Adjust with milk (add drops at the atime) or more powdered coconut sugar until you have the right consistency.