Merry Christmas! This year Hanukkah and Christmas fell on the same week. Although I don’t technically celebrate either of them, I made sufganiot (jelly doughnuts) and gingerbread cookies. Why settle for one holiday (or none at all) when you can celebrate all of them? As long as I have something to keep me distracted from the Jerusalem cold that’s starting to get on my nerves. At least winter here is just a transition season.

I already wrote about gingerbread in the past. Every time I do more research on it, I get confused even more. The world of gingerbread cookie lovers is divided in two: Those who love their cookie soft and chewy and those who look for that crunchy sound between their teeth. I actually never tasted a gingerbread cookie I didn’t make, so it was a little hard to make a decision.

Eventually I found myself preparing both versions.  In fact it’s the same dough. The difference lies in the rolling out of the dough and baking time. Thick dough and a shorter baking time will produce a soft cookie that crumbles in the mouth.

Thin dough and a longer baking time will produce a crunchy cookie that is also fun to dip in a glass of tea or milk. Inspired by the previous recipe, I added pistachio brittle to the crunchy cookie. I find both versions tasty, especially right out of the oven while they’re still warm and spicy.

You may design the cookie in any form imaginable. I decided to keep things close to home and made Hamsa shaped gingerbread cookies. You know, to fend off bad juju. For the crunchy cookies, I looked for a Hamsa shaped cookie cutter and all I found was a useless waving hand cookie cutter.

So I decided to create my own stencil which made the job a little more difficult than expected, but I was pretty happy with the outcome. For the soft cookies, I was able to find a silicone pan with Hamsa shaped sockets.

Thanks to Ran Shneck for that great photo above.


Gingerbread Dough



200 g flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda

 ¼tsp cloves
½1 tsp ground ginger
½1 tsp cinnamon
A good pinch of coarse sea salt
70 g dark brown sugar
60 g cold butter (cut into cubes)
½ tsp vanilla paste
25 g eggs a medium)
80 g honey

Equipment
Silicone mold with Hamsa shaped sockets
Hamsa shaped cookie cutter, 8×6 cm
Or Hamsa shaped stencil


The recipe makes about 15-16 Hamsa cookies


Gingerbread dough

Put flour, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, salt, sugar and butter cubes in the mixer bowl and keep in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Remove from fridge. Using the paddle attachment, start mixing at low-medium speed until the batter reaches sand-like consistency. Make sure the butter chunks are as small as possible at the end of the process without melting the butter.

Add vanilla and eggs all at once and then add the honey. Keep mixing at medium speed until the dough starts to form but is not yet completely uniform. Remove dough parts from the bowl and combine. Cover dough in plastic wrap. Roll out the dough just a little bit. Keep in the fridge for at least an hour.


Soft gingerbread cookies


Shaping gingerbread dough
Gingerbread Hamsa Cookies

You might have to lightly grease or flour the sockets in the silicone pan. I skipped this part and I manage to easily release the cookies from the pan. Divide the dough into balls the size of 25 g each (3 cm in diameter). Place the balls of dough in the sockets of the pan and flatten the surface with a clean finger. The layer should be about 7-8 cm thick.

Keep in the fridge and preheat the oven to 175 °C (350 °F). Place the baking tray in the oven. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until the edge starts to brown. Remove from the oven and set it aside to cool.

Release the cookies from the pan gently and carefully (They’re easy breakable since they’re so soft). Keep the Hamsa cookies in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.


Crunchy gingerbread cookies


Hamsa cut outs
Shaping a Hamsa
Gingerbread cookie before baking

Prepare the dough and keep in the fridge for about an hour. Prepare the pistachio brittle in the meantime:


Pistachio brittle
40 g sugar
15 g honey
40 g heavy cream
Zest from half a lemon
40 g chopped pistachios


Put honey, heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan. Place on medium heat. Stir the sugar with a spatula to dissolve it. Once it starts to boil, stop stirring. Let the mixture boil on medium heat to a temperature of 116°C / 240°F.

The color of the mixture will change from white to yellow/light brown around the edges. (Towards the end, the mixture will start to bubble. To get a more accurate temperature reading, tilt the saucepan a little and check the temperature in the tilted part).

When the temperature is reached, remove the saucepan from heat. Add chopped pistachios and lemon zest. Mix with a spatula. Pour the mixture on parchment paper. Place a second parchment paper on top (or just fold the same parchment paper on top of the mixture). Roll out the mixture to a 5 mm thickness. Keep in the freeze until the mixture is set and it’s easy enough to remove the parchment paper.


In a cool room, sprinkle a little flour on parchment paper and place the dough on top and dust it with flour as well. Place a second parchment paper on top of the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough between the two parchment papers to a 4-5 mm thickness. (Flip the dough occasionally and roll out the other side as well so that the parchment paper won’t get wrinkled and leave creases on the dough).

Please note (!) If at any point the dough starts to soften, put it back in the fridge until it is stiff again. It’s not critical, but it’s easier to work with cold hard dough.

Gently remove the parchment papers. Set the dough back on one of the papers (this is done to prevent the dough from sticking on the parchment paper).

Using a cookie cutter or a stencil, cut out Hamsa shapes from the dough. Using a knife, cut out a wide eye in the center of the Hamsa. Release the Hamsa shapes and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Keep in the fridge until baking time.

Preheat the oven to 175 °C (350 °F). Remove the parchment paper from the pistachio brittle. With a sharp knife, cut out small diamond shapes from the pistachio brittle to fit the eye in the Hamsa cookies. (If the brittle starts to softens, put it back in the freezer until it is stiff again).

Remove the Hamsa cookies from the fridge. Place them on a second baking tray (the cold tray could warp in the oven). Place a piece of brittle at the center of each Hamsa cookie. Place the baking tray in the oven. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until the edge starts to brown. Remove from the oven and set it aside to cool. The gingerbread cookies stay crunchy for two to three days as long as they’re kept in an airtight container. When exposed to air, the cookies will start to soften.

Gingerbread Hamsa Cookies
Yum

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