4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
In another, larger bowl combine:
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup blackstrap molasses (don’t substitute fancy molasses)
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat shortening with sugar until fluffy; beat in molasses, egg and vanilla.
Stir in flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, to make soft dough. Wrap in foil for four hours or overnight in refrigerator.
Roll dough, ¼ at a time, to 1/8” thickness.
Cut with fancy cookie cutters into holiday shapes.
(Tip: If you roll out the dough onto parchment paper, the cookies are easier to handle. Simply roll out the dough on the paper, cut out a shape and remove the excess dough. Place the parchment paper loaded with cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet.)
Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes or until firm.
Cool before frosting.
(makes 1 ½ cups – two batches may be necessary to ice all cookies in this recipe)
2 freshest possible egg whites*
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 ½ cups icing sugar
Beat egg whites and lemon until foamy. Slowly add icing sugar until frosting holds firm peaks. Cover icing with damp cloth to prevent drying.
For colouring the icing, food colour gels or paste provide the richest, deepest hues. They’re available at specialty baking supply stores.
Separate a few spoonfuls of white icing into small bowls; colour them and use a small knife, spreader or spatula to cover the cookies with a nice, solid layer of icing – not too thin and not too thick! Decorate with silver dragees or sprinkles. Allow to dry overnight before storing cookies in an airtight container.
Cookies will keep well up to a month.
*It’s extremely important to use fresh eggs for the icing because of the danger of food poisoning. If in doubt, use meringue powder and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Angus and Sam decorate gingerbread cookies last year.