As the minutes of Christmas Eve draw to a close, and the gifts are opened from the family, you look around you to see the different ways each person reacts to a gift. A memory jogged from an especially thoughtful gift. A childish giggle from an anticipated fun moment. It all shows us at our most joyfully uninhibited. A time to share those happiest moments.
I continue to do a lot of our family’s traditional baking. It’s a shared moment of joy that transcends generations. In one bite you can be sitting as an adult and your mind and spirit transports to being a cross-legged child huddled under the tree, nibbling on a gingerbread cookie after opening your gifts. You’re thinking of Santa: the great gift-giver and wonder. You wonder about how he slides down the chimney. How he travels around so fast. How he knows what you want. And even after brushing your teeth, like your parents said you had to do before Santa would come, you can still feel that tingle of gingerbread in your mouth as you lay your head on your pillow and drift off to sleep.
It may not be sugarplums, but that spicy sweetness affects your dreams just the same and the extra tingle of the icing’s sweetness carries your dreams to the murky darkness of early morning to continue that festive revelry.
The icing on that gingerbread cookie as a child was a simple milk, vanilla and icing sugar mix. I’ve since grown and played in a new way into adulthood. I thought the liquid component could be anything. Much like how the magic of Santa could be limitless as a child. My festive end to my Advent calendar of recipes includes a couple of twists on a gingerbread (or sugar cookie) icing.
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)
In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the icing sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until the mixture thickens to a consistency of pancake batter, but not as thick as cake icing. It should have a slight ability to pour but not be so fluid as to be overly runny.
To ice the cookies:
Line a baking sheet with wax paper and cover it with a small rack. Place cooled cooking along the rack and spread a small amount of the prepared icing in the centre of each cookie. Spread it slightly with the back of a spoon to icing all the way to the edge of the cookie. Repeat with the remaining cookies and allow to set overnight on the counter.
FRESH GINGER ICING
1 tsp fresh ginger juice (grate a 15cm/6″ piece of fresh ginger, squeeze the grated ginger over a medium bowl to retain the juice)
2 cups icing sugar
Whisk the ginger juice and icing sugar together until a smooth, moderately thick icing comes together. Ice the cookies as instructed above with Lemon Icing.
Each icing recipe will ice about 30 small cookies (5cm/2″ diameter).
As an option you can use 1/2 tsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp ginger juice together and make a combined Lemon-Ginger Icing.
My favourite gingerbread recipe also includes fresh ginger. It’s not my recipe, but I respect something when it’s above and beyond anything I’ve tried.