Gingerbread Panels 48.000

Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post

Holiday Cookies 2016 Dec 1, 2016

Centrolina pastry chef Amanda Cook has created a simple yet stunning project for this year's Holiday Cookies edition. Her own tender, subtly spiced chocolate and light gingerbreads are mixed and matched by swapping out cookie-cutter portions of dough. With a few aligning holes in each gingerbread panel, rows of gingerbread cookies can be attached and used as decorative pieces for a mantel or table centerpiece.

This makes enough for 4 sets of joined mantel pieces, plus extra small cookies.

The chef passes along a few handling tips: When you are cutting and exchanging shapes, the dough is easier to work with if it's chilled. Once you've inserted the cutout dough pieces, flip the panels over; the seams will look more attractive. You may want to reinforce or reopen the aligning holes, which can be done right after the cookies come out of the oven. When you're joining the gingerbread panels together with ribbon, work on a clean kitchen towel for cushioning and less slippage. To make the panels, the chef used the wall pieces of a Wilton Gingerbread house cutting kit, plus 3-inch square cookie cutters.

You'll need a straight-edge ruler, a drinking straw and a Microplane zester, and ribbon for assembling the panels.

Make Ahead: The doughs need to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Where to Buy: Food-grade luster dust, which gives the cookies a nice sheen, is available through cake-decorating supply shops and via baking-goods purveyors online.


Servings:
48

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 48 servings; makes enough for 4 sets of joined mantel pieces, plus extra small cookies

Ingredients
  • For the chocolate gingerbread
  • 2 ounces (57 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona brand
  • A generous 4 3/4 cups (600 grams) flour, preferably King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 pound (454 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs (150 grams total)
  • Scant 1/2 cup (170 grams) unsulphured molasses
  • 2 ounces(57 grams) unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • For the light gingerbread
  • About 5 1/4 cups (650 grams) flour, preferably King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 pound (454 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs (150 grams total)
  • Scant 7 tablespoons (150 grams) unsulphured molasses
  • For assembly
  • About 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) confectioners' sugar
  • About 80 grams pasteurized egg whites
  • 2 drops fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Luster dust (optional; see headnote)

Directions

For the chocolate gingerbread: Whisk together the unsweetened cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger in a container.

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer on medium-low speed for a few minutes, until creamy. Stop to scrape down the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the sugar, beating until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated before adding the next. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Add the molasses and melted chocolate; beat on low speed. The mixture will look as if it's separating, but that's okay. Add the dry-ingredient mixture; beat on low speed just until incorporated, to form a soft dough.

Divide the chocolate gingerbread dough in half. Roll out each half between sheets of parchment paper to a rectangle with a thickness of 1/4 inch. Stack on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 2 days), until firm and well chilled.

For the light gingerbread: Rinse out and dry the mixer bowl. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger in a container.

Beat the butter in the now-clean bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer on medium-low speed for a few minutes, until creamy. Stop to scrape down the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the sugar, beating until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated before adding the next. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Add the molasses, beating on low speed. Again, the mixture may look as if it's separating, but that's okay. Add the flour mixture; beat on low speed just until well incorporated, to form a soft dough.

Divide the light gingerbread dough in half. Roll out each half between sheets of parchment paper to a rectangle with a thickness of 1/4 inch. Stack on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 2 days), until firm and well chilled.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Lightly flour the cookie cutters you’ll use.

Working with one sheet at a time of either dough, transfer it to a clean work surface and remove the top sheet of parchment. Invert the dough and remove the parchment on the other side. Use a straight edge to cut 2 3/4-by-5 1/2-inch and 3-by-3-inch panels -- as many as you can without rerolling the dough. Use the cookie cutters to cut out shapes from any scraps you can. Reroll the remaining dough, again between two pieces of parchment, and return it to the refrigerator to firm up.

Use the cookie cutters to cut out shapes in the tall and short panels; interchange light and chocolate gingerbread pieces as you like, pressing them in gently. (Re-flour the cutters as needed.) Use the drinking straw to create pairs of holes (for joining the pieces with ribbon, later), making sure they line up with the panels you plan to connect. For a mantel set as shown in the accompanying photo, you would want to punch 2 holes on the right side only of 1 tall panel; punch 2 holes on the left and right sides of two short panel squares; punch 2 holes on the left and right sides of 1 tall panel; and punch 2 holes on the left side only of 1 tall panel.

Transfer to the baking sheets, spacing the panels at least 1 1/2 inches apart; turn them over, because the seams will be cleaner-edged on the other side. Return to the refrigerator to keep them chilled and shaped. Bake one sheet at a time (middle rack), for 12 to 15 minutes, until browned on the edges and set.

As soon as they are out of the oven, use the straw to re-open any holes that may have closed up a bit during baking. Let the cookie panels cool completely. Repeat to bake all the cookie panels and cutout cookies.

For assembly: Combine the confectioners’ sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the lemon juice, if using (which helps the icing dry). The consistency of the icing should be pipeable but not too stiff. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel.

Use the Microplane zester to gently grate/smooth and straighten edges that may have spread during baking. (You can do this before you decorate or after the decorated panels have dried.) Color the icing, if desired; transfer to piping bags fitted with a small round tip and decorate the tops and/or bottoms of the tall panels and/or around the cookie inserts. Sprinkle luster dust on top, if using. Let dry completely.

Lay the mantel-piece panels close together on a clean dish towel. Use ribbon to thread through the holes, connecting the pieces. Carefully stand the panels upright, adjusting them so they zigzag.

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Recipe Source

From Amanda Cook, pastry chef at Centrolina in CityCenterDC.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.