Thursday, December 22, 2011

Iced Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies and the U.S. Botanical Gardens

This week I went to the U.S. Botanical Gardens next to the U.S. Capitol to see the annual Christmas display. This year's "Who Lives Here?" exhibit features houses of critters, fairies, and presidents, as well as national monuments. The creative team from Applied Imagination, a Kentucky-based crew of artists, botanical architects and landscape designers, spent eight months creating this amazing display entirely out of natural material.

Fairies made of flowers and hot air balloons made of leaves hang from the ceiling while below are little abodes made of nuts, bark, fruits, and moss, cozily situated among the garden plants. Here is the 'Porcupine Place'.

The level of detail is absolutely phenomenal. You could look at this ten times and see something new every time. The fact that all of the media used to build these is all-natural makes them all the more inventive and creative. I just love the reed organ and acorn cap goblet!

All of the monuments are also constructed out of twigs and leaves and vines. Here's the Capitol.

If you are in the DC area over Christmas, I highly recommend going. Your inner child will be delighted!

These snowflake cookies were inspired by the earthy fairy houses: decorated with detail on a down-to-earth gingerbread cookie. The gingerbread cookies are the same recipe as the Molasses Gingerbread Cookies and Hogwarts Gingerbread Castle, and will make your house smell like clove and cinnamon. They are more spice than sweet. The royal icing was piped with only a #2 tip. 

These cookies make a great holiday gift or addition to a holiday dessert table. I'd like to think that the fairies might eat a miniature version of these... :)

one year ago: Ciambelle (Lemon Wreath Cookies)

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies

yields about 5 dozen cookies

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Divide dough into 3 portions, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. On a generously floured piece of parchment, roll dough to a scant 1/4 inch thick. Brush off excess flour. Slide dough and parchment onto baking sheets, and freeze for 15 minutes.
Cut out desired shapes. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, and freeze for 15 minutes.

Bake cookies for 6 minutes. Remove sheets from oven, and tap them firmly on counter to flatten cookies. Return to oven, rotating sheets, and bake until crisp but not darkened, 6 to 8 minutes more. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Decorate to your heart's content with Royal Icing.

Royal Icing (Outline Consistency for Piping)

yields 3 cups icing

3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoon meringue powder
6 tablespoons warm water

Combine in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes.

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  1. Gorgeous, Meghan! They're so perfectly symmetrical!

  2. The cookies looked wonderful, and I enjoyed the pictures from the exhibit as well!

  3. Wow, so gorgeous...that is some really amazing decorating, almost too pretty to eat! :)

  4. I'm going to try these next year, they are amazing.

  5. i am going to try your icing receipe. you decorate them like a henna painter, well done.

  6. delicious looking cookies looks wonderful

  7. Wow these are beautiful cookies!!!! I have lived in DC for 7 years and have yet to visit the Botanical Gardens during the holiday season. Def need to go!

  8. Your cookies are works of art!!! Just gorgeous!!! I'm truly in awe~

  9. Thanks for posting a Martha Stewart classic Christmas treat. They look so lovely and cute hanging on Christmas trees. Lovely indeed! Can't wait to start making them...

  10. These are the most beautiful snow flakes cookies I saw. You did a great job.
    Have a happy holidays...!!!

  11. What decorating!! Gorgeous!

  12. Meghan these are the most spectacular things I've ever seen! They are a work of art!! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and best wishes for the new year. --

  13. Thank you!

    @Claire - Happy New Year to you, too! Hopefully see you again in 2012 :)

  14. Oh my Lord-your photography is amazing, this is all so so beautiful!!! I also accepted your FoodBuzz FR, I'm looking forward to reading your blog more, I hope you like mine too! :)

  15. Absolutely beautiful, you've inspired me to look for snowflake cutters and get icing - even though our Christmas is all about watermelon, salads and stone fruit!

  16. Will be linking back to this in my upcoming post :)

  17. Ah, thank you! I have been wanting to make gingerbread cookies for Christmas.

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