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.
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.
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.
…you really can’t catch them.
Makes about 2 dozen
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.
While you wait for it to boil, combine the flour and salt in a small-medium bowl.
When the molasses mixture is ready, take it off the heat. Add the baking soda and stir well.
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.
It will be very drippy & look like melted chocolate.
Add the egg and stir well.
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.)
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.
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.
They are very easy to separate if you cut them away from each other right when you take them out. Just fyi.
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.
Oh SNAP, that one lost his arm to the boulder!
*ACTION SHOT* That one can flip!
These ninjas really kick ass. Even the, um, special ones…
Harry Potter ninja? [My attempt at a mask. Fail.]
Those eye-lashes are not particularly stealthy….just sayin’.
Aaaand…a couple astronauts? That frosting dried really quickly and we decided to just leave them blue.
You do have to watch them though, because they will sneak off to various places in your house…
Eat them quick – while you still know where they are.