Every year the retail industry “helps” us to think about Christmas earlier and earlier, hoping to score a larger portion of our Christmas dollars. When I was a child, it was virtually hereasy to have decorations out before Thanksgiving. Now you’re lucky if you make it through Labor Day without Santa cutouts for your lawn showing up in the home improvement store. Really? Why this isn’t Christmas is a whole different discussion, but we’ll just say Home Depot lighted reindeer are NOT the reason for the season.
For me, Christmas in July is Christmas revisited. For the past 2 years I have given gifts of baking to a friend, and somewhere around now, one of the quarterly installments is claimed.
This year’s gift was a batch of cookies a quarter and today I’m delivering a batch of what he hopes will replicate some cookies from his childhood. As he has beehives, it was appropriate for the Honey Cookies we use his dark local yummy honey. While having enough cinnamon and cloves to make you think of gingerbread, there is no ginger. Unlike gingerbread as well, the inside is soft and delicious, the edges crunchy.
My biggest challenge was the decorating. I am somewhat of a #failure in the decorating department, but I am actually happy with these cheerful summer flowers, the petals striped with a pink dust and centered with pearlized sugar.
HONEY COOKIES WITH DECORATIVE ICING
Makes about 2 dozen small cookies; fewer large
2/3 cup dark honey
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup water
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
3 egg whites, room temperature (pasteurized egg whites)
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Food coloring, optional
Bring to a boil sugar, honey and shortening. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow mixture to cool. In a separate bowl, beat egg and add to water. Again, separately, mix and sift the flour, soda, salt and spices.
Add the sifted dry ingredients, alternately, with the liquid ingredients to the honey mixture, combining all together. Allow the dough to ripen several days in the refrigerator before rolling it out, this improves the texture and flavor.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets or use parchment paper or a sil-mat. Do not overgrease. Roll out dough about 1/4-inch thick and cut. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
Place all icing ingredients in mixing bowl and mix with electric beater for about 10 minutes. After mixing, be sure to keep bowl covered with a damp cloth at all times; icing dries quickly and hard. If you wish, add food coloring to make colored lines.
For decorating cookies:
Fill pastry or paper frosting cone with icing, up to about 1/2 inch below the top.
Fold the paper down over the icing and cut 1/8 inch off tip of the cone. Squeeze icing through the hole in the tip with one hand while holding top closed with other hand. It takes a little practice. A paper pattern, punched with pinholes for outlines, placed over the cookie and lightly dusted with powdered sugar makes decorating easier.