Martha Stewart Living (December 2015)
It's 10 days 'til Christmas, and everything seems a little off-kilter this year.
Instead of St. Nick, we've got Krampus. Instead of a white Christmas, we've been sweating it out here in D.C. (It hit 71 degrees on Sunday!)
Our Christmas tree fell down. Our Christmas cards got lost on their way from the printer. Zach has a head cold.
Nothing is working as it should!
Including, by all accounts, all three of this year's Cookie Challenge recipes...
Over this past weekend, hundreds of Bitten Word readers banded together to make three holiday cookie recipes selected from three different December food magazines. We chose a mix of cookies that we thought would be fun but also challenging. Plus, all three were cookies that we wanted to eat. Each reader who signed up received one recipe. Because we are overly ambitious in the kitchen, we decided to make all three cookies this past Sunday.
First, the good news: We love love love seeing everyone's photos and reading about your experiences making the cookies! The photos and reports are so fun to read.
But here's the bad news: Across the board, for all three recipes, the most positive thing anyone seems to be saying is something along the lines of, "Tastes fine but not worth the effort." (And it gets worse from there.)
Let's start with these Gingered Sugar Cookies.
As you can see from the awesome Bitten Word readers who have posted on Instagram, the finished product is cute! Twisted candy canes of lighter and darker cookie dough.
You may notice, however, that our own photo up top has no artfully twisted little candy cane shapes. Ours has no cute little wreaths. That's because our dough was impossible to work with.
You'll see this as a running theme this week: We just could not get our dough to the right consistency. In one case [spoiler alert for later this week!], we simply gave up. In the case of these Gingered Sugar Cookies, we tried and tried to roll the dough into little two-tone ropes that we could weave together, but the dough was so crumbly and dry that weaving it was impossible. It just fell apart.
So, following the recipe's alternate suggestion, we rolled the dough out and stamped out some shapes using a cookie cutter. That worked okay, but it still wasn't great.
Seems like our Bitten Bakers felt the same way. Here are some of the comments we've received:
Nancy: If I make this recipe again I will not make the twisted candy canes - they are a hassle
Melaura: The flavor is good -- but not worth the rolling and twisting and bending...the ropes break where the bits of candied ginger are as you try to form the shapes.
Susan B.: This was a hilarious disaster. I always have trouble with anything that requires any kind of manual dexterity, but this dough seemed very hard to handle. But the flavor on these cookies was really nothing special. Definitely not worth the effort.
Meghan: Oh boy. The dough was very difficult to work with and kept breaking. I eventually gave up, rolled the dough out, and cut out shapes. I wasn't crazy about the flavor either. Nothing particularly memorable.
Emily: I found this recipe challenging. If you have an extra three hours to shape some up, I suggest you start with your favorite holiday libation.
Susan K.: As my teenage daughter would say: "#Fail." The dough kept breaking apart and plainly did not want to be fashioned into intricate shapes. Next I tried fashioning the dough into round blobs -- my son added sprinkles because he declared these to be the most boring Christmas cookies ever. Once baked, these at least looked like holiday cookies....but then we tried them. Oh my goodness, these were a waste of butter and eggs and sugar. #ReallyReallyBigFail.
Good to know we weren't the only ones who thought the dough was tough to work with!
So what about the flavor? Like a lot of our fellow-bakers, we thought it was okay but nothing special. It's the kind of cookie you might pluck off a platter at a holiday party and nibble absent-mindedly while you're talking to your cousin's coworker's niece. There's nothing bad about the flavor, but you wouldn't give it a second thought.
But for the amount of time and dough-agony involved? These cookies are solidly on Santa's naughty list.
Prep: 1 hour 15 mins | Total time: 3 hours 10 mins
Yield: Makes about 3 dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon finely minced candied ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons molasses
1 teaspoon honey
Whisk together flour, both gingers, baking powder, and saltin a bowl. Beat butter with sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually beat in flour mixture until combined.
Divide dough in half. Knead molasses into one portion,honey into other. On a lightly floured surface, knead each piece and form into balls. Wrap each in plastic 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.)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Divide each dough ball into about 3 dozen 1-inch balls (about 2 teaspoons each). On a lightly floured surface, shape into ropes, each about 9 inches long. (If ropes crack or break, simply press dough back together.) Twist pairs of opposite-colored ropes together, gently stretching each pair into a 12-inch spiral strand. Cut each strand in half crosswise; form each piece into a candy-cane or pretzel shape. (Or roll out dough and cut out shapes with cookie cutters.) Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden on edges, 14 to 16 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week.