Oscar and Lena live in a quaint town on a planet where the houses are made of honeyed gingerbread. What makes it even more special is that they don’t work, yet they have money to travel whenever they want. It snows but they have no visible hair or clothes yet are never cold. I’ve pressed them for the location but they’re vague and start talking about the state of the Euro or their love of fried shishito peppers instead. When I finally get it out of them, how to get to their home town, I’m buying a train ticket asap. You can come too.
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup honey
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing (recipe follows)
Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in honey and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Divide dough into 3 portions, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a generously floured piece of parchment, roll dough to a scant 1/4 inch thick. Brush off excess flour. Slide dough and parchment onto a baking sheet, and freeze for 15 minutes.
Cut out desired shapes. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, and freeze for 15 minutes.
Bake cookies for 6 minutes. Remove sheets from oven, and tap them firmly on counter to flatten cookies. Return to oven, rotating sheets, and bake until crisp but not darkened, 6 to 8 minutes more. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
Spoon icing into a pastry bag fitted with a very small plain round tip (such as Ateco #0 or #1). Pipe designs on cookies. Let cookies stand at room temperature until set, at least 2 hours (preferably overnight). Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers for up to 1 week.
Makes about 2 dozen town houses, 4 dozen deer or trees, or 6 dozen men.
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed
5 tablespoons meringue powder
Beat sugar, meringue powder, and a scant 1/4 cup water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed until smooth, about 7 minutes. If icing is too thick, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time; if too thin, beat icing for 2 to 3 minutes more, or add more sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Use immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature overnight; stir before using.