Gingerbread Cookies

Recipe courtesy of Duff Goldman from The Food Network

2 cups unbleached white flour*
2 teaspoons ground ginger*
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg*
1/4 teaspoon baking soda*
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*
1/4 teaspoon salt*
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened*
1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 extra-large egg*
Nonstick cooking spray, for spraying the parchment paper

Royal Icing (see Cook’s Note):
4 cups powdered sugar
3 extra-large egg whites (pasteurized)*
3 drops lemon juice*
Food coloring, optional

For the cookies: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, cloves and salt. In a big bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together with a wooden spoon or a hand mixer. Mix in the molasses and egg until smooth, then add the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use your preferred cookie cutters to stamp out shapes (or use a paring knife and architect the gingerbread home of your dreams), then transfer the shapes to the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the dough no longer looks shiny, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Royal icing: Using a stand mixer and the whisk attachment, whip most of the powdered sugar with the egg whites and most of the lemon juice. Whip until the icing holds its shape and is bright white (not translucent), 5 to 8 minutes. If it is too soft, add more powdered sugar. If it is too stiff, add a bit more lemon juice, drop by drop. If you are using color, add a few drops of it at this point and keep whipping until you have a shade you want. Pipe the royal icing onto the cooled cookies to decorate. When you’re piping small designs, you may want to use very small parchment piping bags.