Gingerbread Tree Cookies

"It’s the most wonderful time of the year!" With this song in my head I trimmed my Christmas tree today. As the song says the holiday season is the most exciting and emotional time of the year for me and trim the Christmas tree is a warm welcome to this magical month. It's so good the recollections of my childhood when my mother, my sister and I used to made this action a great event. I have clear memories of my satisfaction to place each ornament one by one until the final decoration. The expectation for presents, shopping, candies, panettones, Christmas dinner and the family reunion were fabulous and I'm trying to keep this delightful sense of wonder alive. 

After my wedding, setting up a tree at my new home became even more special. Over the years, I’ve been collecting some ornaments from the places I've visited. One that I really like is the crystal angel from the Munich Christmas Market.

So to celebrate this special event of the day I made some delicious gingerbread tree cookies decorated with marshmallow fondant. They are so cutie that you can use them as ornaments as well as a gift. With these gingerbread tree cookies I start my Christmas series and I hope you enjoy the ideas for your holidays!

Gingerbread Tree Cookies
(fron the book Willians-Sonoma Cooking at Home)

2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
¾  cups (6 oz/185g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼  cup unsulfured molasses
2 egg yolks
Decorating sugars and pastes as desired

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale yellow, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the molasses, beating until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolks one at a time.

Sift the flour mixture mixture directly onto the butter mixture. Beat just until combined, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Using floured hands, form the dough into a smooth mound and divide into 3 equal portions. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat an oven to 400ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove 1 dough disk at a time from the refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. Place the dough between 2 sheets of parchment or waxed paper and roll out to a thickness of 1/4 to 3/8 inch. This thickness is important to ensure the baked cookies will fit together.

Dip the cutters into flour just before using and cut out the shapes. Using an offset spatula, carefully transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough. Gather up the scraps, reroll them and cut out additional cookies. For best results, do not reroll scraps more than once. Refrigerate the cookies until firm, about 20 minutes.

Bake the cookies until golden browned on the edges, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets, then decorate as desired.


Maple Apple Pie

Some weeks ago, in a pleasant Monday morning, my husband and I went to the Patterson Fruit Farm to pick up some apples. Honey crisp, Macintosh, Golden Delicious and Gala. These are some of the varieties that we found there. There were more kinds of apple there too, but most of them were new to me and I could just remember those. Among all those options we gathered beautiful apples avid to make our first apple pie. In my imagination when I think of this iconic American dessert, I always see a warm pie even with a fragrant swirling steam cooling on the kitchen counter like in the old cartoons I watched when I was a child.

Making my own apple pie was very exciting! First I prepared the dough. To obtain a perfect pie crust I left it resting overnight on the fridge, and then I make the apple filling with maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. During the baking, when the top crust starts to became golden I brushed the entire crust with milk and sprinkled some sugar and cinnamon. The flavors of the juicy compote filling covered by the sugary crust were sensational. How wonderful was enjoy this traditional dessert on a typical autumn evening!

Maple Apple Pie
(adapted from here)

For the pastry:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar
10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter,
  cut into pieces
10 Tbs. cold vegetable shortening, cut into
7 Tbs. ice water
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the filling:

2 1/2 lb. baking apples, peeled, cored,
  quartered and cut lengthwise into slices 1/2
  inch thick
1/2 cup sugar, plus more as needed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup maple syrup
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 Tbs. milk
Sugar and cinnamon for dusting


To make the pastry, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center, add the butter and shortening and, using your fingertips, rub them into the flour mixture until small, flat pieces form. In a cup or small bowl, combine the water and vinegar. Using a fork, gently mix just enough of the liquid into the flour mixture so it comes together in a rough ball; do not overwork. Discard the remaining liquid. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

To make the filling, in a bowl, toss together the apples, the 1/2 cup sugar (adding more to taste if the apples are tart), cinnamon, nutmeg and maple syrup.

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out half of the dough (leave the other half refrigerated) into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough in half and then into quarters and transfer it to a 9-inch pie dish. Unfold and gently press into the bottom and sides of the dish. Trim the edges even with the rim. Roll out the remaining dough into a 10-inch round about 1/8 inch thick.

Turn the apples into the pastry-lined pan, mounding them slightly in the center. Dot evenly with the butter. Brush the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough round into quarters and unfold over the apples. Press together the top and bottom crusts to seal, then trim the edges flush with the rim of the dish and crimp to form an attractive edge. Make a few slits near the center to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 25 minutes. Brush with milk and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake until the apples are tender (insert a knife blade through a slit) and the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and let the pie cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Makes one 9-inch pie; serves 8.


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