Thursday, 11 December 2014

Hershey Hugs Gingerbread Cookies






I have a great holiday cookie recipe to share with you! I made these last night and brought them to the office today. They were a huge hit! One of my coworkers described them as "the best gingerbread cookie he's ever had". These are great for coworkers, family, children and especially if you are involved in cookie exchanges. They are sweet and spicy (not hot spicy, but ginger and cinnamon spicy) so they're full of flavour. Their best quality, however, is that they are soft and chewy. So often gingerbread is stiff and crunchy. Not these! They were gloriously soft and warm right out of the oven (as cookies tend to be) but the texture maintained the next day. Just be sure to keep them in an airtight container once they've cooled completely. 

Hershey's makes all kinds of different Kisses. Originally they were a milk chocolate button with a signature peak on top (commonly described as a flat-bottomed tear drop). The Hug variety is white chocolate with milk chocolate stripes. There are also Hershey's kisses filled with caramel, nuts, flavoured creams and all sorts of other options (some depending on international region). Since these are Christmasy cookies I should mention that here in North America, this time of year you can get candy cane Kisses which are peppermint flavoured white chocolate with red stripes. Esthetically speaking, those would work best here, but I wasn't feeling the idea of peppermint in my gingerbread. I settled on the Hugs which worked awesome, but feel free to use whatever you prefer or can find.  Be creative! I'm not saying you need to use Kisses either. Lots of different holiday treats would work in their place.


      


Gingerbread also contains molasses, which is a byproduct created through the process of refining sugar. It's a dark, viscous, sticky liquid with a unique flavour. The most common way of creating molasses is with sugar cane. Juice is extracted from sugar cane and then boiled to concentrate it and encourage crystallization. The uncrystalized part becomes a sticky syrup. After one boiling, you have what's called cane syrup. When boiled a second time, the syrup takes on a darker colour and more complex flavour. The product is called Fancy Molasses. When boiled a third time, you get what's called Blackstrap Molasses which is robust, bitter and not as sweet as the first two boils. Cane syrup cannot be substituted, though you can use either Fancy or Blackstrap in this recipe. I prefer the flavour of Fancy Molasses so I used that, but that's a completely personal preference. Blackstrap molasses doesn't make bitter gingerbread, but it will have a more robust and lingering flavour on your palate. Some people prefer that. The call is up to you. 

This recipe yields about 3 dozen cookies.


Ingredients


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg (ground will work)
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup (or 1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses, room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarse sugar
About 3 dozen Hershey's Hugs (or the Kiss variety of your choice, one per cookie)


In a large bowl, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Use a whisk to evenly combine. Set aside.




In another bowl, add the softened butter and the brown sugar. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, whip the two together until light and fluffy. 
I'd like to add that I only had golden sugar on hand which is what I've used here. It can be used instead of brown sugar, but don't be alarmed if yours is a different colour. Ideally you want brown sugar for this recipe. 



Add the molasses, egg and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture. 





Beat on a low speed until smoothly incorporated.




Continuing to beat on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture from the other bowl in stages until completely incorporated. This is your cookie dough.





As excited as you are to start making cookies, you're going to have to wait a while. This dough is very, very sticky and therefore very uncooperative. Do your best to gather the dough and form it into a flat disc.




Wrap it in cling film and chill it in the refrigerator for anywhere from 4 hours to overnight. The shortcut alternative is to put it in the freezer for about an hour and a half.






Once properly chilled the dough will be much easier to work with. Pinch off bits of the dough and roll them between your palms to create round, one-inch balls. At one inch, they're not going to look big enough but trust me on this one. 





Now it's time to coat them in sugar. Take your coarse sugar and place it in a small dish. Since I was going with a Christmas theme, I managed to get some red, green and white sugar. Just use what you can find. In a pinch, you could even use regular granulated sugar for this step. No worries.





Roll each of the gingerbread balls in the sugar until evenly coated. I ended up with 33 cookies so I did 11 in each colour. 



Place them on an ungreased baking pan and space them about two inches apart. Place in your oven preheated to 350 F/177 C for 8 - 10 minutes. 




During baking the cookies will flatten a bit and just start to brown on the edges. They should still be somewhat soft. It is common for gingerbread cookies and gingersnaps to crack, so don't worry is that happens to your batch. It's all part of gingerbread's charm. 





Immediately after they come out of the oven, place an unwrapped Hershey's Hug into the middle of each cookie. Gently press the chocolate into the cookie to create a pillowy effect. 



To ensure the least amount of chocolate meltage, transfer the completed cookie to a wire rack with a spatula. Allow them to cool completely before transferring them to an airtight container. You do kinda owe it to yourself to eat one after just a few minutes while the cookies are warm and the chocolate is gooey. Just sayin'.





The feedback I got on these was very positive. I'm not a big sweets person but I did quite like them as well. If you're familiar with my blog then you already know that cutesie baking like this is not my schtick but I gotta admit, these were fun to make and they turned out well. I love ginger, cinnamon, chocolate and molasses. These cookies are an amazing combination of the four. The coarse sugar gave them a very festive look and crunchy exterior to the soft, chewy, spiced cookie and Hershey's chocolate in the center. If you want to please a crowd over the holidays, this is your ticket. 

Wherever you are in the world, I wish you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays. I'm spending this Christmas with my aunt and uncle again so as always I'll include some coverage of the feast. I won't bother wishing you a good new year because there is more in store on the blog before then. 

Until next time,

B

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