Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cinnamon n Spice Peanut Butter

Vaibhav and I have been wanting to make peanut butter at home for the longest time. Ever since I mentioned we can even make it spicy, he couldn't wait to run out of his store bought jar of peanut butter.

One morning he pulls out the empty jar out of the refrigerator and asks me, "Weren't we going to make some peanut butter of our own..when's that going to happen?"....obviously my next question was, "Why is there an empty jar in the fridge?"..to which he says, "See I could easily remind you this way..We are out." grrrrr...needless to say he had to fix his own breakfast that morning...but, the very next morning I found myself roasting peanuts..LOL

And I'm so glad I did. This is the best peanut butter ever..smooth, delicious, light and creamy with all the spice...so so good! The star ingredient sure is Cinnamon..it shines and makes this peanut butter taste absolutely wonderful. Omit the hot spice, but definitely add the cinnamon..you won't regret it.

yields about 1/2 cup

1 Cup de-shelled Peanuts
Pinch of  Salt
1 tablespoon Honey
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil (I use the Saffola safflower oil)
1/8th teaspoon Cinnamon
Pinch of Chilli Powder (optional..adjust per your taste)
Pinch of Paprika flakes (optional..adjust per your taste)

Dry roast the peanuts in a pan on low-medium heat. Be careful to not let them burn and be a little patient as they can go from a nice brown to burnt in seconds on high flame. Alternately, you could even roast them in an oven.

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If using a food processor, probably a good idea to double the ingredients. I use a Magic bullet to blend, which works like a charm for this.

We have decided to come up and experiment with more flavors. Happy Buttering ;)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Republic Day India!!!

Last week a very weird thing happened. Called Papa to just say Hi..and he asked me if we celebrate India's Republic Day in any way. Obviously, we don't and I said "No, we don't." He gave me examples of places like Dubai and Kuwait where apparently, the Indian community meets up and shows gratitude in some way. Well, I just said.."No Dad, I don't think anyone celebrates it here. In any case, what can we show by meeting on that day?" Papa was hurt and agitated at the same time..oh yes, he gave me a piece of his mind.

I apologized but a thought haunted me. I only realized, that I don't feel so strongly for, January 26th, India's Republic Day. The Constitution of India came into force. All the hard work, life sacrifices, the fight, the passion that was put into freeing India from Britishers in 1947 finally got stamped by bringing into force its own constitution in 1950. Don't get me wrong..India's Independence Day means a lot..we call, wish absolutely everyone in the family..And I follow all the festivals here in my own little ways..but Republic Day..umm not so much!!

So this time I changed things around. India's flag is also called as 'Tiranga' or the Tricolor. Consists of colors, Saffron, White and Green with a blue wheel in the middle.

My lil goofy niece, Annvi from a year back!..Lil Mother India!
Tried to emulate the tricolor in form of Dhoklas and a Chiffon/souffle like cake. Neither of which turned out great. Dhoklas, were my mistake..but as far as baking a chiffon cake is concerned, I have a long long way to go.

Dhokla is a steamed savory cake served as snack or breakfast. Traditional dhoklas from Gujarat are made with Bengal Gram Flour and need some rising time. Semolina dhoklas on the other hand are instant and healthier version of the same.

I am really thankful to Rajini & Ruchira of Tadka Pasta for this wonderful idea and recipe and also Shirley of Enriching your Kid for making it available.

I wanted to make a tricolor of something that we have usually..and this recipe is a great spin on flavoring regular semolina dhokla batter I make. It was a no-brainer for me. The verdict, the green layer tastes awesome..not sure why this idea never struck me. It was made by adding cilantro chutney to the regular batter and then steamed in a steam pot. I was too ambitious and steamed all three layers together for the very first time and everything fell apart. I managed to save the green layer and simply made a new batch of the white, cos we were very hungry. This deserves a post of its own, will share the entire recipe very soon.

Chiffon cake..those baked real nice in the oven, but when I took them out, they collapsed. Some say the oven door should be kept ajar for a few minutes before completely pulling the cake out and should be inverted asap, or it will collapse. I am going try this again, and share my experience and recipe very soon. BTW..the green layer was made with the Do Matcha green tea and the Saffron layer was a Mango essence with saffron strands.

Here's to the spirit, the thought, to Papa (Sorry, I hurt you..didn't mean to) and to our country, India!! Hope you all had a Happy Republic Day!!! :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Basil Pesto

Ummm...Basil Pesto. This one absolutely needs no words or introduction or even a recipe. Throw 5 basic ingredients in a blender and you have wonderful dip, or pasta/pizza sauce or salad dressing ready in a jiffy. Oh and did I mention it's so green and fresh?

So green..quickly took a picture without cleaning the side of the bowl!!

The only drawback is that just like guacamole, basil pesto also oxidizes :(. But I have had success with lime juice to keep the green of the basil actually green :D. When I am using it as a pasta sauce I don't add lime juice to it, but when using it on my whole wheat pizza or as a salad dressing or as a chicken/shrimp marinade..I add lime juice and it does not turn brown on me..phewww!!!

You can see the top has already begun to brown
I grab a generous amount of Basil leaves from a local fresh produce market named Felipe's at 99c a bag...awesome. I use the whole bag for 1 serving of the below recipe.

Basil Pesto
1 cup packed Basil leaves
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese (I just throw in a big chunk of it..sometimes I throw in 2 ;)
1 1/2 tablespoon Pine Nuts or 12-14 Walnut Halves
2 fresh Garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Pepper (I add about 1/4th tsp pepper cos I like it..add more if you can take the heat)
1/2 teaspoon Lime Juice (optional)

Throw in all the ingredients in a blender and blend well to make a smooth paste. I use a Magic Bullet, but if you are using a food processor, would be a good idea to double the batch and use lime so you can store the left-over.

I always use the entire batch at once, but there have been times I have left over. To store, simply transfer to an airtight jar and pour some olive oil to make a thin film on top and refrigerate.

Ta-daa..basil pesto is ready. It really is a burst of freshness in your mouth. I have a tough time not licking my pasta bowl clean with the pesto...sooo good!! Oh yes...up next is my Pasta with Creamy Basil Pesto..of course without the cream :D

Happy Blending!!!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What's your best memory of chocolate? And..Julia's Chocolate Mousse

I asked myself last night...What's your best chocolate memory? There are quite a few. The chocolate barfi Papa got for Diwali, the 1 rupee coin I got to buy 2 Cadbury's eclairs...oooh how I enjoyed those. Best even when Anna, my grand aunt, would bring us Chocolate pastries from Mongini's. Those were the best. The pastries were really expensive for us, but Anna would bring them to us on special occasions like her birthday, her retirement..right all those occasions we should have brought cake to her. LOL..anyways we loved her for that. Who remembers Mongini's here? It was the only good bakery that existed when I was growing up. I do recall by the time I was in college Birdy's by Taj was very much in fashion ;).

Of course, Vibes has surprised me with chocolate and desserts as well. But, there is one very distinct memory of chocolate which happened in my 10th grade. 10th grade in India is very intense. The finals, often referred to as the Board Examinations, are tough and decide your career or your specialization. Coaching begins in Summer vacation, even before schools reopen..yeah it's a different system. Summer vacation begins April and ends June which also marks the new school year. Basically your academic year for 10th grade begins in April and you study until the March of next year..talk about intense.

I remember I had this system of waking up at 5.15AM and a very well chalked out time table with breaks and eating times with most of it spent at my study table, from September for exams in March. Every student appearing for the Board exams does. We had stories like how we didn't need an alarm as months passed by. Imagine waking up at the same time for 6-7 months straight with the pressure to crack the BOARD exams...your brain is a little alarm clock...your body obeys it for best or for worse :)..yes, it is as intense as it sounds. Oh and even after the exams were done, I recall waking up tensed and frenzied at 5.30AM or a nightmare of forgetting everything during the exam...My sister, Madhu, would calm me down and remind me that it's all over...It was frustrating then..but I am sure everyone's loving just reading this, perhaps even re-living those days. The hard work, the dedication and then reaping the benefits..it's awesome!! I have a adrenaline rush right now just writing about it..LOL

"Chocolate story JC"..right right..chocolate story, got carried away there. A very usual November morning. Wake up at 5.15AM. Dark outside and of course quite cold. Say my prayers, put on a sweater, make a cup of tea, drink some water and get ready to settle at my study table. Switch on the table lamp, only to find a nice cool bar of 'Perk' with a lovely red greeting card patiently waiting for me to be opened. It was my birthday..nooo I had not forgotten, but I knew everyone will wake up as usual and wish me. This indeed was a very very unexpected surprise. Madhu, woke up even before me and set it on my study table. That is the best chocolate surprise I have ever received and I will never forget it..Love you sis!! <3..I am going to treat you to something chocolatey good the next time we meet ^__^

I thought of that 'Perk' as a perk or a reward for being loyal to much needed hard work. Trust me, it comes as a surprise to everyone today that I have come so far, because I was not a straight A student at all. I am an average student who struggled every step of the way and am proud of it. So, yeah my folks were delighted to find I was quite determined..a perk definitely perked me up..figure of speech lesson, anyone? BTW Perk is Cadbury's version of Nestle's KitKat.

Before I forget..I adorned my, I mean David Lebovitz' Julia's Chocolate Mousse with Trader Joe's chocolate crisps..pheww..quite a mouthful. My friend, Aarti introduced me to these. In fact, the idea of making a mousse also came from her. She got these very cute little cups of chocolate mousse for a dinner, very neat and elegant. Frankly, I loved the mousse she made better than Julia's..Sorry Julia and David Lebovitz..no offense, it's just a preference, not just texture-wise, but also, the fact that it was eggless. I am a little worried when it comes to raw eggs and kids (that are not even mine :P)..Have her recipe now and will share it soon :)

Ahem..this time Trader Joe's should seriously plan on giving Aarti some cut for the surged sales of these chocolate crisps. I like to munch on them as desserts just on their own. 6 of them for only 110 cal..what more can I ask for..only more crisps..:D

Almost all bloggers have blogged about David Lebovitz' Julia Child's Perfect Chocolate Mousse. I haven't done anything new here, except for omitting Rum and butter. The yolks are cooked, however, the egg whites are raw, so grab the freshest eggs possible for this recipe. Vibes really found fresh ones..Safeway was out and they were just getting ready to re-stock with their newest shipment...awesomeeee.

Chocolate Mousse
adapted from David Lebovitz' Julia Child's Perfect Chocolate Mousse
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used 60% cacao)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dark-brewed coffee (You could brew coffee or use 6 tablespoons of hot water with 2 1/2 tablespoons of instant coffee)
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter (if using) and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat and keep aside.

In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise.

Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice cubes/water and beat until cool and thick (below is my set-up..I was not up for more manual egg beating..phewww)

The thickness of the egg yolks should be ribbon like

Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks or vice-versa.

In the meantime chill a separate bowl and beater in the freezer for the egg whites. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff. Add the vanilla and give it one last whip.

Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don’t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving cups/bowls, and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours, until firm. I got 8 mini dessert bowls with this recipe.

So while I finish these up and you begin your arm workout, care to share your best chocolate memory? And..Bon Appétit! :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Healthier Whole Wheat Yelptastic Cookies

Birthdays, Anniversary, Christmas, New Year's, Holiday Dinners..it's all over. And what do I find myself doing?..Still checking out recipes of desserts..ooh maybe I can bake that..aah I should definitely try this..dang I really need to snap out of desserts. But, I am lucky, haven't run out of excuses yet ;)

Last week Vibes & I had the opportunity to go volunteer at Second Harvest Food Bank on Wednesday evening. This was my first ever Yelp event...yup, when I am not writing here..I am writing reviews :).

I have been wanting to bake MissNezz' Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies for a while. I really love that these cookies use 100% whole wheat flour. With all the sugar, of course, they are not healthy healthy..but they are definitely healthier. With all the New Year's Resolutions kicking in and everyone working hard on the treadmill, I felt these would be perfect to kick off the New Year!! :)

I have been itching to pipe with Royal Icing..and although intimidating, I began practicing piping Royal Icing on wax papers. Since this was my first time going out with fellow Yelpers, I decided to make little Yelp logos for my cookies as a memoir, which didn't turn out perfect but weren't too bad after all. ;)

I used a trick that they call 'Transfers.' It is a good technique for Beginners, such as, myself. Begins with printing the image of what you want on the cookie. So I began with tracing a logo off of my computer screen on a wax paper (not parchment), and then continued tracing.
For icing, my setup was simple..placed the traced wax paper and covered it with thin sheet of plastic. The plastic sheet protects printing ink or pen ink transferring on to the wet Royal icing. The sheet doesn't have to be a professional laminate..I used a bag that you bag produce in at grocery stores. Run a scissor down 2 sides, so that it opens up to give you a bigger sheet. Secure it with some tapes.

Finally place a fresh piece of wax paper. This is the one you will pipe your little transfers on. Secure the entire setup with some tape, so it does not shift while you pipe. Lightly spray some Pam and wipe it with a fresh dry paper napkin..All done...Let the piping begin!

When done, let them dry and then cover loosely with a piece of wax paper and let them dry overnight. Once dried these will easily peel off the wax paper. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use.

To attach them to the cookie, pipe some royal icing on the back of the transfers, very carefully so you don't break them and 'glue' them to the cookie. Alternately, you can flood your cookie and when the flooded cookie is slightly dry place your transfer directly on it.

As usual, I made changes to the original recipe ;)..I couldn't bear to add so much sugar. So I decided to flavor it with more with lemon and give it a kick with some extra spice. That really worked and balanced out well. None of us missed the sweetness, and the cookies turned out chewy and yummy.

I made a double batch and got 60 cookies for a big group. Simply halve the ingredients to make a single batch. These are even great with some evening chai.

Whole Wheat Healthy (less) Sugar Cookies
Adapted from MissNezz' Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies

3/4th cup + 2 tablespoons Butter
3 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (If you are worried about too much protein, substitute
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Sugar
1/4th cup + 2 tablespoons Turbinado Sugar
2 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 tablespoon Lemon Rind
3 tablespoons Milk
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
2 teaspoons Cinnamon

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Keep aside.

With a paddle attachment beat both sugars and butter in a separate bowl of a standing mixer (or hand mixer) until fluffy.

Zest the lemon into the bowl. Add milk, lemon juice, vanilla and the eggs to the bowl, and beat well.

Add the dry ingredients 1/3rd at a time and beat well to combine.

The batter at this point is very sticky and not ready to be handled. It needs some chilling time. So cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter for a good hour or two.

When chilled and ready to bake position rack in center of oven; preheat to 375°F. Line 2 cookie sheet pans with parchment paper or Silpat mats.

Take half the dough out and divide it into smaller balls. Roll this smaller balls between 2 sheets of wax papers to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out the cookies and place it on lined sheet pans an inch apart.

Bake for about 8-9 minutes.

Remove pan and let the cookies cool on the pan for about 2-3 minutes. Them move the cookies to a cooling rack to cool off completely and ready for decorations.

A great idea for Valentine's maybe, just around the corner :). Happy Baking or should I say Happy Yelping!! :D

Saturday, January 5, 2013

California Frost..and a quick Healthy Breakfast idea

That is frost on the roof with a Sun Kiss in shape of an 'A'!!
California has been really chilly for the past few days. We have to literally wipe that frost off our car windshields and have been waking up to frosted rooftops every morning. This morning however, its not that chilly and there's no frost on rooftops..I kinda miss it :(..I know 'lame' as compared to other states that receive snow, but this is enough to get me excited and take pictures :D..In our defense, California receives snow too..it's just that it likes the Sierras only. Did I hear you say 'that's not CA, that's Nevada'?..Hmm, technically we share it...so yes CA gets snow.

...moving on..In addition to it being only 44º F, we literally woke up to growling tummies. Fired up the heater, and the stove. Chopped some almonds..grabbed dried blueberries, honey and some Irish oats.
4 ingredients+milk+water..Awesome!!
Disclaimer: This post isn't an advert for Trader Joe's..I haven't been approached for endorsements yet..right I wish ;)..but it just so happens that I stumbled upon the McCann's Irish oats at Trader Joe's and even found a perfect companion for it..TJ's Dried Wild Blueberries!! This is a wholesome breakfast and I thought why not share it with you all. Now, I better get a cut if sales at Trader Joe's spur up ;)

I really dislike the Quacker oats..it's instant and everything, but overly sweet, too commercialized and don't taste like oats at all. I was on a hunt for some quality oats...those were either too hard to chew or too mushy to be eaten..then these happened. It all started when we were visiting San Diego with Mom last year for a wonderful Mother's Day weekend. I had ordered a slow cooking oats with blueberries and honey for breakfast at a cafe there (don't recall the name) and really loved it. Came back home and found myself trying to recreate that magic at home. And there you have it..a piping hot bowl of lovely Oats!!
Better than the picture on the box ;)
I like the combination of Honey and Dried Wild Blueberries and how it does not need any more sugar or sweetener. Healthy, Wholesome & Growling Tummies Approved!!! 

And this is how I make it. Simply double up for two servings.

For each serving you'll need:
1/4 Cup of 2% or skim Milk
1/4 cup of Water
1 tablespoon of Honey (just a guess..this should be according to your taste. Try 1 teaspoon of brown sugar instead..tastes great!)
1 1/2 tablespoon of Wild Dried Blueberries (don't overdo it, cos then it becomes too sweet..at least for my taste)
6-7 Almonds, chopped or slivered

Simply follow the directions on the box, which is, 1 Cup of liquid for every half cup of oats.

Bring to boil, add the oats,  honey and the blueberries. Simmer it for a couple of minutes. Turn off the stove and cover it for about 5 minutes. Garnish with almonds and Serve.

I have even had it for lunch a couple of times ;)..well I have "I don't wanna cook today" days too!!! :)

Bain taitneamh as do bhéil!! And Enjoy the weekend ahead!! :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year...Gingerbread House!!!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and here's Wishing you all A Very Happy New Year!! My New Year Resolution is to continue on this new journey of creativity and sharing my food experiences. :)..So What's your New Year Resolution? Please share!!!

Keeping up with the resolution, I am sharing with you my Gingerbread House although too late. Since schools don't reopen for another week, perhaps this could be a good project to beat the Christmas Blues with your kids :)

A year back I was introduced to the wonderful world of decorating Gingerbread Houses. We were visiting Vibes' family on the east coast for Christmas and the all the kids get to decorate their own Gingerbread house. They got me one too and I learnt a thing or two about Royal icing and decorating Gingerbread houses with candies..ooooh how fun!!!!

This year, although not visiting, I decided to continue with the tradition. So off I went to check out gingerbread houses online..so many beautiful houses and images of colorful candies, lovely roofs, pretty pathways..just couldn't decide on one. Now, I am not a candy eater at all, nahh not to worry I compensate all of that with unimaginable amounts of chocolate :P..anyways, bottom line is I didn't want to invest in candies that neither of us will eat, but somehow I really wanted to create something unique..and then Heather's gorgeous Gingerbread House caught my eye..This was absolutely perfect, kind of Gingerbread House for grown-ups like me ;). I absolutely love all the little details that could be incorporated and decided to go down the path of fondant!!

Everything here's fondant. I bought the Wilton ready-to-use fondant available at craft stores like Michaels.
The textured roof shingles and the patterned windows were done with a single toothpick.
I'd really like to Thank the wonderful Youtube videos that helped me create my fondant Snowman and Christmas Tree.
CupcakesandCardio for Snowman
Chef Sam for the Snippety Snip Christmas Tree

Used sugar water and a brush to glue fondant to the house and other fondant accessories.

Cotton balls were used for quick fencing with powdered sugar sifted all over. (Use Marshmallows instead of cotton balls..I didn't have any and it was pouring too heavily to go to the store ;)

I used the exact same template Heather recommends from bbcgoodfood.com, and I did like it a lot. Since, it was my first time assembling a gingerbread house, I can attest it is simple to work with. Get 3 copies of the template, cut them out, place it on the rolled out dough and simply cut with a pizza cutter..Easy breezy!

The Royal icing is also Wilton's ready-to-use mix. Just to construct the house I used about half the package, i.e. 1 cup. Prepare a piping bag with a round tip or you can even use a ziploc bag with 1/4 inch cut in the corner and pipe the royal icing.
These guys made my house a home!!! :)
The template however does miss out on a chimney so I made my own, that in shape of a Santa Hat..Now now whatever makes my inmates happy!!
Thank You Arinamcrrockt for the Santa Hat YouTube video.
See how happy it makes them!
Also, sharing Heather's recipe for the Gingerbread dough. It is a good dough to make a sturdy house, lovely cookies and tastes great, all at the same time..I am surely impressed. Although the cookies did spread out a bit when cooking. For precise house construction, I re-cut the baked shapes while the cookies were hot. Simply place the paper cut-outs on the cookies and re-cut with a pizza cutter. (Be very careful to not burn yourself, I did, not pretty :( ). Obviously, don't have pics, cos I had to work quickly!

Alright, now that all notes and show-off is out the way, let's get to the recipe, shall we? :P

Gingerbread Dough (yields the recommended template + 1 dozen cookies)

Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes - Gingerbread Dough

3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
3 teaspoons Ground Ginger (I like packing a good amount of ginger flavor)
1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon  Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 sticks or 1 cup Butter, at room temperature (I almost always use salted butter)
1/2 cup packed + 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Turbinado Sugar (optional, if you don't have this just substitute with equal amount of brown sugar)
1/2 cup Molasses, not black strap
1 large Egg
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Keep aside.

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer or a hand-held one, beat butter in another large bowl at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add brown and turbinado sugar; beat for another 2-3 minutes, until fluffy.

Add molasses; beat until fluffy, about 2 more minutes. I spray the inside of the measuring cup with some cooking spray before measuring the molasses. All of it comes right out into the bowl when you are ready to add.

Add egg; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; beat in vanilla.

Add all the flour mixture at once and beat only until blended at a low speed. Gather the dough into a ball.

Divide the gathered ball into 2. Wrap them in individual plastic wraps and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. It should be chilled well and firm.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper to  ¼-inch thickness. Place gingerbread house templates and cut shapes with a pizza cutter. Or use decorative cookie cutters to cut-out shapes and transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather scraps, roll out dough, and cut more shapes/cookies, repeating until all dough is used.

Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are firm on top and slightly darker around edges, about 8 minutes for smaller shapes and up to 12-14 minutes for larger shapes. Watch them after the 10 minute mark.

Remove them and allow to cool undisturbed for 5 minutes in the sheet pan. Then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Use the Royal icing and start building your house. I used a left over cake board from my husband's birthday cake ;). But I really liked the instructions at Cakewhiz.

Wishing you all A Safe, Happy and Prosperous New Year!!! Happy Gingerbreading!!! :)