Holiday season is bittersweet sometimes. I was just wrapping Christmas presents for my three children on the dining room table and all the while thinking about the school shooting this morning in Connecticut that left 20 children and 6 adults dead. There are just no words. I thought of those parents who will have unopened Christmas presents under the tree and stashed away in closets for the children and family members who were lost today. I thought of how devastating Christmas will feel to them this year. No words. Then, a song came on that made me weep – a song about Christmas and loss. But it’s also a song about honoring the memory of those who are gone.
From Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan:
And this is how I see you
In the snow on Christmas morning
Love an happiness surround you
As you throw your arms up to the sky
I keep this moment by and by
Oh, how I miss you now, my love
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas, my love
I very nearly abandoned writing this post today because I couldn’t make sense of what to say. Because nothing I could say would be adequate. I felt guilty about putting cheerful Christmas cookies on the page that might fly in the face of someone’s grief. But the truth is that a great many of my readers on any given day have probably experienced loss this year or are missing someone this Christmas. So, to each of you folks, I just wanted to say that you are not forgotten. I am praying for you specifically today. Christmas reminds us that life is precious. Draw near to one another this season.
Join me in praying for the families of the school shooting victims and their community today and in the weeks ahead.
Spiced Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies
Soft, chewy, and flavorful gingerbread cut-out cookies. The addition of black pepper brings out the spices, balanced with a little bit of fresh orange zest. I’m not a royal icing fan, so I opted for a stiff buttercream icing instead. These are the best Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies I’ve ever made.
Heavily adapted from [Food Network|http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gingerbread-cookies-101-recipe/index.html]
Yields: Depending on the size of your cookie cutters 24-36 cookies
- 3-1/2c flour
- 1t baking soda
- 1-1/2t cinnamon
- 1-1/2t ground ginger
- 1t allspice
- 1/2t ground cloves
- 1/2t ground black pepper
- 1/2t salt
- 1/2c butter
- 1/4c shortening
- 2/3c brown sugar
- 2/3c molasses
- 1 egg
- 1/4t fresh orange zest
- Stiff Buttercream Icing:
- 1/3c butter, softened
- 3c powdered sugar
- 1/2t vanilla
- 2T half and half
Into a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar until fluffy and well-combined. Add the molasses, followed by the egg and orange zest, beating until smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again until combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour/spice mixture until it all comes together. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness (thinner for crisp cookies, thicker for soft, chewy cookies). Using your favorite cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and place on the prepared baking sheets. Roll, cut, and repeat with the remaining dough. Bake in the preheated oven 7-9 minutes or until just cooked through but still soft (mine were perfect at 8 minutes). Carefully remove cookies to a cooling rack.
!To Make the Stiff Buttercream Icing:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream the butter. Sift in the powdered sugar gradually. Add the vanilla and the half and half. Beat on high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Spread on cookies using a knife or a piping bag with a tip (or a plastic zipper bag with the corner cut off). Allow the icing to set before storing cookies in airtight containers.