Cinnamon. Cloves. A pinch of ginger. The enticing, unmistakable aroma of Christmas. When it's time to bake the annual batch of gingerbread cookies this year, to fill the house with spicy smells, think big. Giant cookie cutters in the shape of Christmas trees, Santa's face, reindeer and other holiday symbols are available in many stores. Or, if you can't find exactly what you want, simply draw a freehand design on a piece of cardboard, cut it out and trace around it with a sharp knife on the rolled-out dough. Packaged frostings, colorful cake sprinkles and an assortment of candies will make it easy for younger children to do the decorating while older children can help make and cut the cookies. It's a great way to let young family members share in the preparations for the big day. GINGERBREAD DOUGH 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed 1/2 cup butter or margarine 1/2 cup molasses 3 cups flour 1 teaspoon ground allspice 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon baking soda teaspoon salt 1 egg, lightly beaten
Combine sugar, butter and molasses in small saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour into large mixing bowl. Allow to cool.
Combine flour, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt in medium mixing bowl and set aside. Add egg to molasses mixture and beat slowly until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture until stiff dough forms. (Add up to cup more flour, if needed.) Shape dough into thick, flat round. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. (Dough may be prepared up to one week ahead.)
Roll chilled dough to -inch thickness on lightly floured pastry cloth. Transfer to baking parchment cut same size as baking sheet. Lightly flour surface of dough. Cut with floured cookie cutter or place cardboard pattern on dough and cut around edges with sharp knife. Transfer cookies on parchment to cool baking sheet.
Roll out dough scraps and transfer to another sheet of parchment. Follow above procedure for additional cookies. Bake at 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes for very large cookies, 8 to 9 minutes for smaller. Cool cookies on baking sheets, 4 minutes for large ones, 1 minute for small. Remove to wire rack and cool until very firm. Decorate as desired. Number of cookies will depend on size of cutters.
PRODUCED BY ANA ERICKSEN / FOOD STYLIST: JANET MILLER
FURNITURE: THE ANTIQUE GUILD / HOUSEWARES, ACCESSORIES: WILLIAMS-SONOMA WREATH, GARLAND, TEDDY BEAR: THE CHRISTMAS GUILD, LOS ANGELES