Creep In the New Year

No one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves.

– William Hazlitt

No offense to Mr. Hazlitt, but I recently approached perfection – with a great deal of stealth – and was perfectly aware of it. It was, of course, in the form of a cookie.

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As you may recall, I attended my very first cookie swap on a very cold and blustery evening in December and was introduced to Ninjabread. That’s right – carbs and frosting, in stealth-mode. How could anyone resist such a combination?

Well, my [very smart] brother knew that if I owned this killer cookie cutter set, there would be plenty o’ cookies for him to devour. I am always looking for an excuse to bake something. These cookie cutters are probably the best excuse. Ever.

[Photo source]

So when my best friend decided to visit me before leaving for South Africa with the Peace Corps (I have really cool friends), I knew exactly what would be on the agenda. Museums and historical tours are nice and all but…come on, people. Ninjabread. How is that not a win.

For the actual cookies, I eschewed the recipe on the box – comical though its instruction is (“Add molasses and stir into the night,” etc.), the girl who made them for the cookie swap used the recipe and I felt like it could use a little improving upon, so I turned to someone who I’m convinced has some of the best cookie & brownie recipes on the web: Jenna at Eat, Live, Run. Her Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cookie recipe has been on my to-try list for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity to do just that. I halved it and had to alter it a bit here and there, but I think I have a go-to gingerbread cookie recipe from now on. Even without frosting, these cookies were drop-kick delicious. But you should add frosting because…well, because most things are improved with a little buttercream. You know it’s true.

Ninjabread Men

…you really can’t catch them.

Makes about 2 dozen

You’ll need:

1/3 c. molasses

1/3 c. dark brown sugar

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 [heaping] tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

a couple grinds of pepper

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

1 egg, beaten slightly

1 stick butter

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. For super-easy cleaning, I recommend covering a pan with foil and then with parchment paper. I’m kind of on a parchment-paper kick at the moment. It is so incredibly useful.

In a large cast-iron skillet, combine the molasses, brown sugar, vanilla and spices. Bring to boil and let boil for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring every so often. It will smell amazing.

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While you wait for it to boil, combine the flour and salt in a small-medium bowl.

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When the molasses mixture is ready, take it off the heat. Add the baking soda and stir well.

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It looks gross in pictures, but it’s actually really cool and mousse-like!

Add the butter a chunk at a time, stirring each until it’s melted.

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It will be very drippy & look like melted chocolate.

Add the egg and stir well.

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Really looks like brownie batter!

Add in the flour/salt mix. I had to add quite a bit extra to get the dough to stiffen enough to be cookie-cutter ready, so keep your flour on hand. (I have accounted for that in the ingredients list, but I’m not 100% sure exactly how much I used; just add it by the tablespoon until it looks like it will hold its shape in the cookie cutter.)

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Roll it out onto a floured surface and cut away! The thinner you roll it out, the closer to the pictures on the box the cookies will be. In other words, they do expand quite a bit while they bake. I actually preferred the larger ones, even if they weren’t as perfect-looking, for their softer texture. The thinner ones were a little more crisp.

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Bake them for about 12 minutes. Let them cool well before frosting.

Oh, and don’t try checking in the oven to see if they’re fighting each other – they’re way too fast to be caught.

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They are very easy to separate if you cut them away from each other right when you take them out. Just fyi.

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That flat cookie over there became a boulder. Because, you know, near all ninjas is a boulder. At least, all the ones in PHOTO SHOOTS.

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Oh SNAP, that one lost his arm to the boulder!

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*ACTION SHOT* That one can flip!

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Hi-YAH!

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Hiiiiii-YAAAAH!!!

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These ninjas really kick ass. Even the, um, special ones…

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Harry Potter ninja? [My attempt at a mask. Fail.]

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Those eye-lashes are not particularly stealthy….just sayin’.

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Aaaand…a couple astronauts? That frosting dried really quickly and we decided to just leave them blue.

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You do have to watch them though, because they will sneak off to various places in your house…

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Eat them quick – while you still know where they are.

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