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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, December 2

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Random Sat Dec 19 2009

DIY: Chicago Gingerbread Stars

Piping Skills need work

I've been trying to overcome my fear of baking and rolled cookies seemed like something that I would ruin several times before I got right. And I'm impatient so I decided to skip even trying for years. And then a recent urge for gingerbread cookies led me to reconsider this. I talked with several very experienced bakers who were confused by my reluctance to make cookies and they offered suggestions for recipes. Since I had an invitation to attend a cookie exchange party, I decided I would gather my courage, sugar coat it, and get over it.

After consulting a number of people, I decided to try a cookie for making gingerbread men that was on Simply Recipes. And I couldn't have been happier with it. It was far easier (thanks to a Kitchen Aid mixer) than I would have expected it to be. I followed the recipe mostly as written but with a few modifications. I add 1 teaspoon of cardamom to make the cookies even spicier. I rolled the dough to 1/4" instead of 1/8" because I wanted them softer instead of crunchy. And I didn't refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes after rolling and before cutting as directed after the first batch. If I was making these during warmer weather I might have to make the dough firmer during the transfer to the cookie sheet.

Chicago Star Cookie CutterBut the best part, the part that actually was a bit creative, was wanting to make Chicago-star shaped cookies. Someone suggested I cut a star template and use a paring knife or small thin spatula to create the cuts. The idea of creating that many little incisions seemed far more fiddly than I thought I could handle. And then when talking to someone about Hanukkah I realized that the Star of David has six points, just like the Chicago star. The next day I headed to Tom Thumb, my favorite general craft store, and looked for a cutter I could alter. They only had a small cutter because they were out of the two larger sizes. And it couldn't have been easier. The metal is very soft so all I had to do was squeeze gently on each point with a pair of needle-nose pliers. I did my best to make them balanced, and it isn't a perfect star admittedly, but since it is getting transfered to cookie dough and then baked, it seems close enough.

I admittedly purchased a tube of pre-made frosting at the correct consistency for piping instead of making royal icing. I would suggest you make your own royal icing instead. I spent more time squeezing the tube than I spent icing cookies. And I got massive hand cramps from the thick plastic tube that I've never gotten when using a piping bag.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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