Gingerbread Train Cars
Total Time: 8:00
2½ c. all-purpose flour
2½ tsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. kosher salt
½ c. unsalted butter
½ c. dark brown sugar
1 large egg
¼ c. molasses
1½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 batch royal icing
Red and blue gel paste food coloring
5 graham crackers
1 c. granulated sugar
Holly and berry sprinkles
Candies to fill the cars
- To Bake: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, cloves and salt.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, molasses and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated (the dough will be soft).
- Shape the dough into two 1-inch-thick disks and roll each between 2 sheets of wax paper to 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using the templates, cut out the wheels, wreath and 2 of each small train car. Cut out 1 engine car, then reverse the template and cut out 1 more. (Reroll, chill and cut the scraps as needed.) Place on the prepared baking sheets, 1 inch apart.
- Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cookies are set and the edges are beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To Assemble: While cookies are cooling, make 1 batch of royal icing (you will have 3 1/2 cups); separate into 3 bowls, tinting 1 1/2 cups red and 1 cup blue (leave the remaining cup white). Transfer half of each color to piping bags fitted with fine tips. Use a few drops of water to thin the icing remaining in the bowls and place in separate resealable plastic bags; snip off the corners.
- Using the thicker icing, outline each cookie, then fill using the thinner flooding icing.
- Decorate with sanding sugar while the icing is wet. Let dry completely, the pipe details and attach dragées and sprinkles (using icing), as desired. (Reserve the remaining icing).
- Break 1 graham cracker into a 3 1/2-inch-long piece. Break 2 graham crackers in half (about 2 1/2 inches long each). Break the 2 remaining crackers into small sections (about 1 inch long each).
- In a large nonstick skillet, spread the granulated sugar in an even layer. Heat over medium heat until liquefied, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burning. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until caramel is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Keep warm over lowest heat.
- Working quickly and carefully, dip short ends of the 3 1/2-inch cracker into the caramel; attach a small cracker to one end at a 90-degree angle to form the front; attach a medium cracker to the other end. Set aside to dry. Immediately repeat with remaining crackers, using halves as car bottoms and small sections as ends to create car baskets.
- Dip the sides of 1 car basket into the warm caramel, then attach the gingerbread sides to form cars. Repeat with remaining graham cracker bases and gingerbread cookies. Let dry 1 hour.
- Tip cars onto one end (for the engine car, tip the back end up first). Flood the top facing graham crackers with icing. Let dry 1 hour, then turn the other end up and repeat. While the icing is wet, attach the wreath to the front of the engine car. Let dry completely. Fill the cars with sweets.
Strawberry Swirl Cookies
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
2¼ cups flour, plus more for dusting
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup strawberry jam
½ cup coconut
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars and beat until well mixed. Add egg and vanilla and beat well.
- Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat well.
- Scoop out dough onto plastic wrap and wrap up while shaping it into a ball. Chill for an hour.
- Take out dough, unwrap it, and place it onto a sheet of waxed paper that has been dusted with flour. Dust dough with flour as well. Roll out dough to a 12 x 9 rectangle.
- Spread jam evenly over dough. Top with coconut and pecans, and press them down lightly.
Begin rolling up dough on long side. Once rolled, wrap up in the wax paper, place on a pan, and chill in freezer for about 2 hours or until firm.
- Remove and let sit out about 5 minutes. Slice ¼ inch thick, and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.