Yield: 2- 2 1/2 dozen Large St. Nicholas Cookies (5 1/2in. tall)
or About 4-5 dozen cookies (using standard cookie cutters)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup honey
1/2 t. cloves
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used Kerry Gold, but any brand works!)
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. cream of tartar
5 cups of flour (sifted) + additional flour for kneading and rolling
**Royal Icing for decorating (or purchased frosting)
1) Sugar Syrup: In a large skillet on medium heat, take 1 T. of sugar from the 2 cups, place in skillet, and allow to caramelize. Pour in the 1/4 cup of water, and bring to a rolling simmer. Add the rest of the 2 cups of sugar, and turn heat a bit lower. Stirring occasionally, cook this mixture for about 4-5min. (Sugar will not dissolve completely- will not be clear, but thick and bubbly.) ***This is the tricky stage, because if the heat is too high, your sugar will seize, and you will have to start over!! After about 5min. or so, add the honey and spices, and stir well. As soon as this mixture comes to a hard simmer, remove from the heat, and allow to cool for about 20min.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, soda, and tartar.
2) When sugar syrup has cooled to about slightly warm, (don't wait too long, or it will be too difficult to work with as the sugar syrup will firm up to like a thick caramel!) Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter together- scraping down the sides, and combining well. Add the eggs- 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Lastly, slowly mix in the sifted flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
Turn the dough out onto a very well floured surface, and begin to knead the dough for about 5min., incorporating more flour as necessary, (until just tacky to the touch.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30min. prior to rolling out.
3) Preheat oven to 350F. On a well floured surface, roll your dough out to about the same thickness as sugar cookies. Cut into desired shapes, stamp, etc., and place cookies on silpat or parchment lined sheet trays. Prior to baking, place the pans of cookies in the refrigerator for about 10-15min. (This helps them to keep their shape while baking.) Remove, and place in a 350F oven for 12-15min. (Smaller shapes bake faster!) Remove cookies from oven, and allow to cool completely before decorating!
4) These cookies can either be served plain, or you can finish by piping on royal icing designs, or can also purchase a can of vanilla frosting to decorate as well! Keep cookies in a sealed storage container.
**I make traditional Royal Icing with an egg white and sifted powdered sugar. (You want to beat the egg white until a bit foamy, then begin adding the powdered sugar and whisking well until you have the desired thickness for piping.)