Chef John Michael Lerma's gingerbread cookies sweeten up the holidays [RECIPE]

John Michael Lerma.jpg
Baking cookies with the "Pie Guy" JML
​Now that the turkey is done, the relatives have made themselves scarce, and the cranberry sauce stains have been addressed, it's time to kick this holiday season business into high gear. It's time to get our bake on. 

For ideas we turned to area cookbook author, chef, and television personality John Michael Lerma. You may recognize him from the small screen as the Pie Guy, or perhaps you've found yourself searching his recipe-stuffed blog or easy-to-follow cookbook, Garden Country Cooking.

We asked JML to share one of his favorite holiday cookie recipes, and he sent us this gem.

"This recipe was originally my great-great- grandmother's, and it had no measurements or oven temperature.  She used a wood-burning stove," Lerma says.  "It has wonderful spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and thick molasses.  I hope you will try it and let me know what you think.  I'm also attaching a Royal Icing recipe to decorate your gingerbread men and women cookies.  The kids love to help!  Happy Holidays!"

Gingerbread Cookies
6 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 cup molasses, unsulfured
Royal Icing (recipe follows)

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Set aside. 
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.  Beat in spices and salt, and then beat in eggs and molasses until combined.  Reduce speed to low.  Gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined.  Divide dough in half; flatten into disks.  Wrap in plastic; chill at least 1 hour. 
  3. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Remove dough from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature to temper slightly (this prevents dough from cracking).  Place a large piece of parchment paper on a clean work surface, and dust generously with flour.  You may also use a large silpat liner and dust lightly. 
  4. Roll out dough to a ¼ inch thickness, running an offset spatula under dough and dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking.  Transfer dough on parchment paper to freezer to chill until very firm, about 15 minutes. 
  5. Remove dough from freezer; working quickly cut into desired shapes.  If dough begin to soften return to freezer a few minutes.  Using a spatula transfer shapes to baking sheets; freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. 
  6. Transfer baking sheets to oven; bake until cookies are crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool, and then decorate as desired.  Makes about 16 large cookies
Royal Icing
1 pound confectioner's sugar
5 tablespoons meringue powder or 2 large egg whites (If using egg whites, omit the water from step one, and refrigerate icing until ready to use)
Liquid gel or gel-paste food coloring

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, meringue power, and scant ½ cup water on low speed.  Mix until fluffy yet dense, 7 to 8 minutes.  Use icing immediately, or transfer to an airtight container (icing hardens quickly when exposed to air).  Beat well with a rubber spatula before using. 
  2. To thin icing for flooding (filling in areas with a thin lay of icing), stir in additional water 1 teaspoon at a time.  Test consistency by lifting spoon and letting icing drip back into bowl; a ribbon of icing on surface should remain 5 to 7 seconds. 
  3. To tint icing, dip a toothpick into food coloring, and gradually mix into icing with toothpick until desired shade is reached.  Makes about 2 ½ cups

**John Michael's Tip ~ "Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised."

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