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Bright Idea Cookies: Recipe and last thoughts

I already mentioned how I got the idea for the Christmas story “Queen Abigail and the Bright Idea Cookies.” But as I was writing it, I committed to following it up by posting some rough approximation of the recipe. It just seemed like the right thing to do. But I can’t say for sure how these would taste. Any enterprising cooks that want to try it out and make suggestions would be doing us all a favor.

Bright Idea Gingerbread Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
4 Tbsp molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground espresso
1/4 teaspoon powdered cloves
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 to 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream butter with brown sugar. Add eggs, molasses and spices.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift the baking powder and soda into the flour, and then stir these dry ingredients into the molasses mixture. Mix and knead until you have a dense ball of gingerbread dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and roll it to about 1/2″ thick. (You can also place the dough on parchment, and put a sheet of plastic wrap over it as you roll, pulling the plastic to eliminate wrinkles as necessary when rolling.
  4. Turn cookies into shapes with a cookie cutter or cookie mold.
  5. Transfer the cookies to ungreased cookie sheets
  6. Bake the cookies for about 8-10 minutes or until they spring back when lightly touched.
  7. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
  8. For the icing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to a plastic baggie and snip off the bottom corner to make it easy to decorate with.

So … what’s the secret to the Bright Idea Cookies? Why did they have the effect they did on the parish council? Was it the vanilla? The orange zest? The espresso powder?

I’ve been thinking about that. I think it was all of them, but it was also that every girl added something special, something that transformed them from just cookies in a recipe floating around the internet to treats that refresh the spirit and give inspiration to a tired parish council. It was the spices that Xenia and Photini grew with such diligence and love, but it was also the last-minute additions of espresso and holy water. It was the orange zest that Vanessa added because it came from a wise grandmother’s good cookery. It was Abigail’s quick-thinking artistry and the contributions that Maggie got from four little children who just wanted to help. So if you want these gingerbread cookies to be not only tasty but inspirational, keep all that in mind and look for those kinds of touches that you can bring to make the whole batch a little bit more special.

And in any case, I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

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