Last Christmas, I so thoroughly enjoyed The Bitten Word's 2014 round-up of holiday cookies baked and reviewed by their readers that I knew I wanted to participate this year. Sign up I did, and I was assigned Gingered Sugar Cookies from Martha Stewart. It was such fun to join a community of bakers and take part in this year's holiday cookie challenge.
I was glad that I didn't have to go hunt for any obscure ingredients, and that the cookie dough itself is a familiar one: a basic sugar cookie, albeit with a twist (heyo!). I'm generally of the opinion that pretty / fussy things usually don't taste great because aesthetics have been prioritized, but these cookies turned out rather (and surprisingly) pretty and were delicious too -- not too sweet, with a nice subtle ginger flavor. I thought the minced candied ginger was a nice touch.
I made a few changes, mostly with regard to method. For some reason the recipe's instructions for twisting the cookie dough into candy cane shapes were somewhat unintelligible, so I poked around on the internet in hopes of finding better instructions, and the internet did not fail me. The instructions for candy cane cookies from Joy of Baking (struck gold here, as the recipe was accompanied by a very helpful video) and Chowhound were supremely helpful.
Another change I made was to the oven temperature and baking time: I test-baked a couple of cookies at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes according to the Martha Stewart recipe, and then test-baked a couple at 375 degrees F for 9-10 minutes according to both the Joy of Baking and Chowhound recipes. I preferred the latter, as it produced a softer and better looking cookie. I've rewritten the original recipe below to reflect these changes.
And lastly, a lot of participants (search for #bittencookiechallenge on Instagram to see other people's results!) who were also assigned these cookies found that they took too much time on account of the need to chill the cookie dough a couple of different times. I made the cookie dough the night before, and shaped the cookies the next morning, which broke up the process a bit and and made it seem less time intensive.
If you also enjoy cookies and democracy, bop on over to The Bitten Word all week for their write-up of this year's holiday cookie challenge to see which recipes were amazing, bleh, or down-right terrible.
Gingered Sugar Twist Cookies
Adapted very slightly from Martha Stewart
Makes about 24 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely minced candied ginger
2 teaspoons molasses
1 teaspoon honey
Whisk together flour, ground ginger, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, cream together butter with sugar until pale and fluffy (can be done with an electric mixer or by hand). Beat in egg and vanilla, and then mixed in the candied ginger. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until combine.
Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, knead honey into one portion, molasses into other, and form into balls. Wrap each separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm but still pliable, about 30 minutes. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days; let stand at room temperature until pliable, 10 minutes.)
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Take a teaspoon-sized chunk of the honey dough, and a teaspoon-sized chunk of the molasses dough. Separately roll each color, on a lightly floured surface, into an approximately 4-inch long rope. Place the two ropes side by side, gently press together, and twist the two ropes to form a spiral. Place the cookies on the baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Shape each cookie into a candy cane shape by bending one end into a hook shape, or into a wreath shape by connecting the ends in a circle. (I like to take 5 chunks of each dough at a time, and return the remaining dough to the fridge so it doesn't get too warm).
Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 30 minutes so that unbaked cookies can firm up (this helps the cookies retain their shape because the butter won't melt and spread as quickly).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F while cookie dough is firming up in the freezer.
Bake until cookies are just slightly golden on edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week.