There are sights and sounds (and smells!) that guests look forward to each time they return to Walt Disney World...especially Walt Disney World during the holidays. In my mind, one of the greatest Christmastime WDW standards is the Grand Floridian's gigantic gingerbread house. The house, erected in the resort's lobby each year, is large enough for cast members to stand inside as they sell gingerbread shingles, cookies, and treats to guest after guest after guest. Well, as you know, because of the ongoing pandemic, resort gingerbread houses will not be on display this year.
But, just when you and I might be tempted to think that 2020 has struck once again, we'll put on our oven mitts and get creative. And we will invite a bit of the Grand Floridian's holiday magic into our very own kitchens. Are you ready to bake up a piece of the Disney World Christmas magic this weekend? Today, we'll be making the Grand Floridian's gingerbread cookies!
All things holidays were ushered into the Disney parks this past week, with Christmas decorations appearing in the Magic Kingdom early in the week and Hollywood Studios mid-week, and everywhere (including the arrival of special snacks!) yesterday. So it only makes sense that we'd kick off the season in our own homes today, right?
These spicy (and sweet!) cookies are the perfect thing to bring a little Christmas right when we need it the most, and we know that the chefs at the Grand Floridian won't let us down. If you didn't catch the Saturday Snacks where we made the Grand's AMAZING chocolate chip cookies, click here to get caught up. And then make them as soon as you can. You'll thank me.
To get things started today, you might need a trip to the store or schedule a grocery pickup because you're going to need half of the spice aisle. Don't be afraid of the list; the spices are simply tossed in as the dough's being constructed. And now that we have all the spices, we can make more and more gingerbread, right? Look at us being grown ups and planning for the future! #winning
There were a couple of spices that were unavailable in ground form at my three local stores. I thought I remembered somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind that a coffee bean grinder could be used to grind spices, and a quick internet search confirmed this to be true. I dug my coffee bean grinder out of the cabinet and gave it a good wash to ensure that my spices wouldn't end up coffee flavored. Ahem.
To start things off, grab two sticks of butter out of the fridge and let them soften on the counter or give them a quick zap in the microwave. If you use the microwave to soften the butter, keep a very close eye on it, or you'll end up with a puddle of melted butter. Been there, done that.
Toss 2 1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can use a large bowl and a hand mixer), and follow that up with the softened butter. The recipe calls for us to sift the sugar first, but if you don't have a sifter, simply take a whisk to the sugar and make sure that any clumps are broken up before adding the butter.
Now, be careful: as soon as you start up your mixer and that paddle starts moving around the bowl, a cloud of confectioners' sugar will appear. And small spurts of sugar might fly out of the bowl here and there. It's okay. We'll clean that up in a bit, and, in keeping with the holiday season, we can just pretend that it's freshly fallen snow. That might help a bit.
Beat the sugar and butter until it's lighter in color and smooth in texture.
Add two eggs to the butter/sugar combination, and beat them until everything's throughly mixed. Be sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time throughout these steps.
In a separate large bowl, place 3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, and 2 1/4 teaspoons of ground coriander. And stop to smell the spices. Mmmm....
Next, toss in 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon of ground cloves.
Add half a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground mace to the bowl.
We now come to the moment when I needed to freshly grind a couple of spices and hope that my coffee bean grinder did the trick. If you have a mortar and pestle in the cabinet, you can use that to grind the spices as well. Since I am short one mortar and pestle, my Mr. Coffee grinder would have to do.
The first spice to grind was star anise. According to the note provided on the recipe, to get the best flavor, we are to grind the entire star anise pod.
I also read online that you can grind the star anise pods in a baggie with a rolling pin. I pulled my makeshift rolling pin (aka my Pandora tumbler) out of the cabinet, and it was quickly apparent that the star anise pods were way too tough for this method. Star anise: 1, Pandora tumbler: 0.
I tossed the semi-crushed star anise into the coffee bean grinder and wished the grinder luck.
I stopped and checked on the star anise a couple of times, and kept the grinder whirring until it no longer sounded like a landscaping chipper chewing up bark. I knew that star anise has a licorice smell and taste, and mannn that smell was lovely when the spice was freshly ground.
Next up for the coffee bean grinder was the fennel seed.
I tossed a good amount of the seeds into the grinder, measured the correct amount of the spice once it was ground and added it to the bowl. If you've never used fennel before, it smells a bit like celery.
Give the flour and spices a good whisk, and begin to slowly add the mixture to the butter and sugar.
The recipe calls for us to add the dry ingredients while the mixer's on low, but that will most certainly send clouds of ingredients here and there, so add them just a small amount at a time.
Before you know it, the dough will come together. Scoop the dough out of the bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap. This is where a little patience comes into the mix.
The dough needs to rest in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours. Now you and I both know that I'm not the most patient person when it comes to letting dough do it's thing, so I had every intention of grabbing it out of the fridge and continuing after just 2 hours. But, the way that timing and schedules worked out, the dough ended up resting in the fridge for the full 4 hours before I moved to the next step.
After your dough has rested, take it out of the fridge and give it 10 minutes or so on the counter to warm up. The dough won't be pliable when you first take it out of the fridge, and mine needed more like 15 minutes to warm up a bit.
Divide the dough in half, and rewrap the second half and pop it back into the refrigerator.
Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour, and place the half you'll be working with onto the flour.
Roll your dough until it's 1/8 of an inch thick. I ended up making my first go-round at rolling the dough way too thick, and mushed it all back together, grabbed my ruler, and rerolled the dough. That's the nice thing about rolling out dough: you can re-roll it if at first you don't succeed.
Using my $1 gingerbread cookie cutter from Target (what can't you find at Target?), I cut out as many little gingerbread men as I could, and then re-rolled the dough and continued until the dough was completely used.
If you don't have access to a gingerbread man cookie cutter, any cookie cutter (or mason jar lid) will do. Tap your cookie cutter in a bit of flour if the dough is sticking to it.
Place your cut gingerbread dough on a greased (or parchment paper-lined) cookie sheet, allowing roughly an inch between each cookie.
Take the 1/4 cup of milk and brush each cookie lightly with the milk.
Now sprinkle each cookie with as much or as little decorating sugar as you'd like.
For the most part, the sprinkles will stick where the milk is, so brush the milk accordingly. Of course, I went full tilt on the decorating sugar. If you're gonna do something, really do it, right?
The recipe states that the cookies should take 10-14 minutes in the oven; mine split the difference and took 12. The recipe also says that the cookies should be firm, so when an arm or leg of a gingerbread man no longer lifted off of the pan, I knew they were done.
Give them just a minute or so to hang out on the cookie sheet after taking them out of the oven, and then transfer them to a rack to cool.
While the cookies are baking and cooling, you can roll out the second half of the dough and continue the process.
Et voilà! A little taste of the Grand Floridian's holiday magic right in your very own home.
Hello, holidays. Hello, aromatic, warm cookies coming out of the oven. These cookies are so good, and you get to control the level of asweetness that they have by controlling the amount of decorating sugar applied.
Gingerbread on its own isn't sweet, and my hubby wanted to know what they tasted like on their own, so I baked a few without sugar. And you know what? They were good all on their own!
These cookies smell and taste just like you think they would. All those spices that you added into the dough are flecked throughout each cookie, and each time you open the container holding your cookies in the days ahead will send the smell of the Grand Floridian gingerbread house wafting out.
Gingerbread shingles at the Grand are also sold chocolate dipped, so that could be something to keep in mind for next time. But for now, these wonderful little treats are just perfect for ushering in a touch of Disney World Christmas magic and fun.
These cookies are a delight. They get more crisp as the days go on, and they're just perfect with a cup of tea. And I suspect they'd be equally perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yummm...
What are you baking up this weekend? Please let me know! Whatever you do, I hope that moments of magic are found throughout. Have a great weekend, friends.
Ready to give the Grand's gingerbread cookies a try? The recipe is below.
Grand Floridian's Gingerbread Cookies
- 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 eggs
- 3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 1/4 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground star anise
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup colored decorating sugar
Makes 3 dozen cookies.
To get the best flavor, you need to grind the whole star anise pod.
- Combine butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs.
- Sift together flour, cinnamon, coriander, anise, baking powder, ground fennel, ground ginger, cloves, salt, and mace into a separate large bowl.
- With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture until dough holds together.
- Remove dough from bowl and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 to 4 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 2 cookie sheets.
- Remove dough from refrigerator and set aside at room temperature for about 10 minutes, until pliable. Divide dough in half; return one half to refrigerator. Place the other half on a floured work surface. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness, flouring the work surface and rolling pin as needed.
- Cut out cookies with cookie cutters (dip cutters in flour for neat edges). Transfer to baking sheets, 1 inch apart.
- Lightly brush cookies with milk and sprinkle with colored sugar.
- Bake until firm and edges begin to darken, 10 to 14 minutes. Allow cookies to slightly cool on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire racks to completely cool. Repeat with remaining dough
Source: Disney Family