As a kid, Lisa Marie White stared longing at the cookie recipes in the family's copy of "Betty Crocker's Cookbook." When it came time to make Christmas cookies, however, White's mom would grab a tube of slice-and-bake sugar cookie dough. Maybe that's why White, now the culinary director for Nashville's popular Biscuit Love restaurants, grew up to be a pastry chef.
For the holidays, she makes classic cookies, like decorated sugar cookies and gingerbread.
"I think it's because my childhood was not tradition. I go the opposite way," she said.
Over the years, White has tweaked and updated her gingerbread recipe. For her, it is not about what she prefers but about making the best cookie to please everyone else.
"Christmas is about others," White said. "Christmas for me is about sharing and making people smile and feel cared for."
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White included one less common ingredient: golden syrup. The British ingredient, which can be found online, looks like honey and is also called "light treacle."
"When I'm creating recipes, I love to find things people have forgotten about or don't know about," she said.
White also tested the recipe with King Arthur's Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour, to make sure even people with gluten allergies can enjoy her Christmas cookie.
"You want to make everyone happy," she said.
Yields approximately 20 cookies
2½ cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour (or substitute a 1:1 flour substitute)
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
½ cup (125 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup (90 grams) dark brown sugar, packed
Zest of half of a small orange
3 teaspoons (6 grams) ground ginger
2 teaspoons (5 grams) pie spice
1 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
½ teaspoons (1.2 grams) ground black pepper
⅔ cups (230 grams) golden syrup
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Place all-purpose flour in a large bowl and whisk in the baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, combine room temperature butter with the dark brown sugar and the orange zest. Then beat on medium for 7 to 10 minutes until light in color and creamy.
Scrape down the bowl of the mixer to make sure everything is incorporated, then add spices, salt and black pepper. Mix another minute and scrape bowl afterwards. Now add the golden syrup and mix until combined. Scrape bowl of mixer, then add dry mixture a third at a time, mixing on medium speed until smooth.
If the mixture is not coming together and is crumbly at this point, then add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. If the mixture is a bit too tacky or sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour.
Once the mixture comes together in a smooth ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. The dough can also be frozen for up to 2 months at this point.
This dough makes a great edible cookie, but it can also be turned into a gingerbread ornament. The only difference is in the baking time of the cookie.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Line baking sheets or cookie trays with parchment paper to avoid sticking.
Roll dough out to about ⅛ inch thick. Use cookie cutters or a paring knife to cut the dough into shapes. Make sure the dough remains chilled so it can be moved from the cutting board to the baking trays.
Depending on the thickness, bake for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden and dry to the touch. Allow the cookies to cool completely on trays. They will get stronger as they cool.
If using the cookies for ornaments, do not forget to make holes at the top for yarn or ribbon to hang the cookies. Also, cookies that will be used as ornaments should be baked a few minutes longer so the edges are brown but not dark.