Christmas at the Farm: Traditional Hot Cocoa and Gingerbread Cookies

A visit to a family members farm during the holidays has always been a welcome adventure after spending months in busy Kansas City.  This year, the nieces joined us for family recipe day, which for us means whipping up traditional holiday favorites. We ventured out to do some pre-holiday decorating there, and later made treats while we finished up indoors.  Because the kids were with us, we decided that in addition to old school hot cocoa (recipe below), we would do gingerbread cookies.


Normally we would do straight up gingerbread cookies, but this year we added pre made sugar cookie dough to the list.  This way, the kids could more easily participate .  We gave them thier own cutters and rolling pin and they went to town, while the rest of us mixed up the gingerbread dough.  


While they baked we headed back out to get the final touches done on the outside of the farmhouse. The girls really enjoyed this, especially when we added the wreath to the barn door.  We decorated the cookies with frosting using a piping kit, and also had sprinkles for the sugar cookies.  Check out the recipe below for the gingerbread cookies.  


GINGERBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg


Directions:

Position the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper through a wire sieve into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter and vegetable shortening until well-combined, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.) Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick, being sure that the dough isn't sticking to the work surface (run a long metal spatula or knife under the dough occasionally just to be sure, and dust the surface with more flour, if needed).

Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to nonstick cookie sheets, placing the cookies 1 inch apart. Gently knead the scraps together and form into another disk. Wrap and chill for 5 minutes before rolling out again to cut out more cookies.

Bake, switching the positions of the cookies from top to bottom and back to front halfway through baking, until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely. Decorate with Royal Icing. (The cookies can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, stored in airtight containers at room temperature.)


Old Fashioned Hot Cocoa

When I was a kid growing up on our small family dairy farm in Wisconsin, before there were such things as instant cocoa drink mixes, this is how my mother and my big sister made hot chocolate.

- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa
- dash of salt
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 4 cups milk
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Marshmallows

Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in a saucepan. Gradually stir in water. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, and boil for a couple of minutes. Gradually stir in the milk. Heat to almost boiling but do not boil. Stir in the vanilla. Beat with a hand beater before serving.

Always add the marshmallows, they are the best part! 



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