Winter Wonders

First impressions are of critical importance, or so it’s said when it comes to business and relationships. Subconsciously, we tend to place great significance on the beginnings of new experiences, taking every noteworthy detail as a sign. That’s why I knew that our trip to Germany, however brief, would be a good one even before we had exited the plane.

Gawking out the window as the ground grew rapidly closer, rushing upwards to meet the extended and waiting landing gear, I marveled at just how close the wilderness lay to the man-made monstrosity of the airport. Only a fence separated the two, the distance spanning less than a few steps otherwise. Thick layers of evergreen trees obscured much of the landscape beyond the tarmac, but there, right at the miniscule clearing between greenery and barbed wire fence, was the sight of something incredible. A family of deer and fawns, with one single white deer in the center of the pack.

I would have done a double take if we hadn’t hit the ground with a jolt that very second, rushing past the group at warp speed. I had heard of white squirrels, rare as they are, but never white deer. For such a common creature, this one looked incredibly majestic; magical, even. That was the convincing factor that a vacation was the right choice, that I was in the right place. Only more wonders could await. Serendipitously stumbling upon dainty little fawn cookie cutters at one of the Christmas markets that same day, I took that as my second sign. These cookies were meant to be.

And honestly, it just wouldn’t be the holidays without gingerbread! This particular formula is one that I’ve been making for years, a tried-and-true recipe that I originally made with gingerbread houses in mind. Thus, it makes for ultra-snappy, crisp, and sturdy cookies that retain their shape when baked, travel well, and make a solid foundation for edible buildings. A delicate and fragile shape like the fawns are impossible with almost any sort of standard dough, but this simple method hasn’t failed me yet. As an added bonus, there’s not even any chilling time to take into account. Though I wouldn’t recommend getting started on your holiday baking quite so late in the game, this does provide an excellent last-minute option.

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies

Chai Gingerbread Cookies:

3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cardamom
1 Teaspoons Ground Allspice
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
Pinch Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Molasses
1 Tablespoon Plain Non-Dairy Milk

Blondie Gingerbread Cookies:

3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 1/2 – 3 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
Pinch Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup*
1 Tablespoon Plain Non-Dairy Milk

Royal Icing:

2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar or Light Corn Syrup*
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla (or Peppermint, or Almond, or Lemon…) Extract
Water, as Needed and Used Sparingly

*Be sure to hunt down corn syrup that has no high-fructose corn syrup added. You can substitute light agave if you’d prefer, but the dough will brown more as a result.

Preheat your oven to 300.

The procedure is the same for either flavor of cookie, and if you want to make both, simply repeat the steps for the separate doughs. In either a large metal bowl or a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. While you can certainly bring this dough together by hand, it will require some vigorous stirring, so I would advice bringing out the heavy artillery if you have it!

Meanwhile, combine the margarine, sugar, and molasses or corn syrup in a small saucepan and heat gently. Cook the mixture and stir gently, just until the margarine has melted and the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the hot liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients, immediately followed by the non-dairy milk, and mix well. It will be very thick and somewhat difficult to mix, but give it all you’ve got and don’t waste time- It will become harder as it cools.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, press it into a ball, and roll it out to about an 1/8th of an inch in thickness. Cut it into your desired shapes with cookie cutters and transfer the cookies over to a silpat. Bake until the edges of your cookies are just barely browned; 13-20 minutes, depending on the size of your shapes. Let the cookies sit for a minute on the baking sheet before moving them over to a wire rack to cool.

For the royal icing, simply combine the confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, agave, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add in water, one teaspoon at a time, stirring thoroughly after each addition, until it reaches a pipe-able consistency. Be sure to take this process slowly, as just one drop too much liquid can make the icing runny. Allow a full 24 hours for the icing to completely harden.

Yield varies based on the cookie cutter

Printable Recipe

29 thoughts on “Winter Wonders

  1. That sounds like an absolutely amazing experience Hannah. The cookie cutters will be a lovely reminder for your family.

    My husband has been saying we should make gingerbread cookies with the kids, so thanks for the recipe.

    I hope your holiday season is truly wondeful!

  2. oh, I love these deer! seeing them as you landed must have been wonderful.

    I have a sweet little dachshund, and sometimes he looks like a deer…

  3. I love the shape of these cookies, it changes from the usual men (of course, I made some … they should be online soon) or snowballs. Lots of Bambis <3
    I may use your icing, because mine was a big flop and I could not decorate any of my cookies …

  4. Germany’s first impression sounds just about perfect. That must have been a wonder to see!

    I’d rather eat reindeer cookies than men to be honest. These are so much cuter than the traditional shape!

  5. Beautiful evocation of your experience of Germany and travel, darling Hannah! However, I do have to hope that first impressions aren’t always everything, as I landed in Germany (Munich) with a brutal headcold, spent the first night in the hostel crying as it felt like my head was in a vice and my ears would explode before popping/equalising, and then I lost my sense of taste along with my smell for almost my entire ten days in the country.

    IN other words, I need to head back and eateateateat to make up for that , and to try to experience a little of your happiness! :)

    1. Oh but of course- First impressions can be important, but likewise, can also be completely incorrect. It all depends! Your awful cold must have been a terrible fluke, but I agree, you must try it again. Maybe that’s how we could meet- hundreds of miles away from both of our homes, in Germany! ;) I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last trip…

  6. Wow, what a beautiful sight that must have been! Definitely a good omen, especially since it was your first glimpse at Germany. I love how you re-worked that lovely memory into these cookies…you are always a source of inspiration, Hannah!

    Wishing you and your family every joy this holiday season.

  7. I agree – first experiences shape the way that we see most things. And my first experiences with seeing these cookies just drove me crazy! Your recipes and photos are so beautiful and taste so delicious, Hannah. ^^

  8. What a lovely story about the deer, especially seeing the white one. The cookies are so cute. We usually go to Germany at Christmas but this year we went in October instead. Christmas in Germany is a wonderful experience.

  9. First time here..Glad I reached here..Following you right away…This looks delicious.…Totally yummy..Thanks for sharing it dear…Should try it soon…If you have time do check my blog too…


  10. I’m such a sucker for marketing, just calling these “chai” gingerbread makes me want them more than regular gingerbread cookies! Though I was already wanting to make them when you said that you’ve been making it for years. So cute too!

Leave a Reply