Getting ready for Christmas is always a hectic time for me. I want to make gifts for my family and friends. Rem takes care of most of the decorating of the apartment but there are always more gifts to be crafted, cookies to bake, cards and packages to send and stocking stuffers to buy.
This year at work, Friday the 22nd was the last day of finals as well as the last day to finish packing up my office before moving to a new building during our Winter holiday. In the midst of this busy time I caught a cold. It was, needless to say, inconvenient.
Slowing down was the obvious answer and really the only solution for me. I wasn’t going to get everything done and it didn’t really matter.
One thing I kept on my to-do list was a visit to Creekside Bakery in Novato to see their beautiful gingerbread cabin.
This bakery, tucked into a shopping center, make a gingerbread structure every Christmas, but this was the first one we’d seen. A gingerbread man holds open the door on the front porch, welcoming one and all into the rustic cabin.
The following photo is pretty dark, but it gives you an idea of how big the gingerbread cabin is.
We went on Sunday in the pouring rain. We sat down with hot chocolate and a ginger-pear scone (me) and coffee and bear claw (him).
The pastries were still warm. I didn’t stop to take a picture before I started eating and sipping. The whipped cream was not from an aerosol can.
They really get into Christmas at Creekside Bakery.
From the wall mural of Jazz greats in Santa hats (cats in hats?) to the little village on a side counter.
Which, by the way, I think I could have lived in happily if only I were a bit smaller. With a small bakery, miniature pub, bookstore, school, bank, quilt shop (surely they supply a few other craft supplies there too) and more, it was a lovely arrangement.
A Christmas tree in the corner was decorated with ornaments of cups of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and pastries painted in mouth-watering detail.
In addition to a case full of freshly baked pastries, the cookies included gingerbread and iced sugar cookies. I love the muffler-wearing polar bear and the gingerbread men with frowns amidst their smiling brothers.
The piece de resistance was the gingerbread cabin.
I didn’t get a good picture of the potbellied wood burning stove in the other corner but please note the little pink ham in the small yellow oven, all made from fondant. The tiny ham is even studded with cloves!
The whole setting is formed out of Rice Krispie-marshmallow hillocks with fondant-covered boulders coming through the snow. Gingerbread log and post fencing surrounds the property and a small deck is on one side. Little logs of rye bread sticks are stacked outside the cabin ready to bring inside, and an owl sits in a tree nearby.
We were inspired to go home and bake. We made simple but delicious Spice Cookies, a favorite recipe I got from my sister. I asked her where she got it and she thought it was out of a magazine years ago.
I know most of us are cookied-out around now but at least bookmark this recipe for next year when things are just starting to get crazy. I found that rolling and cutting out cookies is relaxing for me, and the delicious way the house smells during the baking make this an activity I want to keep on my list.
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. orange zest (zest from one large orange)
2 Tbsp. dark corn syrup (we used light because we had it – dark would provide a richer color and more pronounced flavor to the finished cookies)
1 Tbsp water
3 1/4 cups flour (+ additional flour for rolling out cookies)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
Sanding Sugar or other decorative sugar for sprinkling on cookies before baking.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
Add egg, orange zest, corn syrup and water and beat until combined.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.
Add flour mixture to sugar and butter mixture and mix until combined. If using a hand mixer, you will probably need to save your mixer at the end and stir by hand.
Press dough into a ball, put in a plastic bag, and chill in the fridge for an hour or so.
Set oven to 350F.
A portion at a time, roll dough out on lightly floured board, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.
Cut with cookie-cutters and place on parchment paper covered baking sheets or lightly greased baking sheets. We used nonstick spray.
Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Let cool for a minute or two on baking sheet before removing to a rack to finish cooling. If they sit too long on the baking sheet, they tend to stick.
Roll and cut the remaining dough – reroll scraps until all dough is used up and bake as above.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!