Gingerbread cookies are the best. I like to bite their heads off first, then each arm, and then each leg. These are going to be the second cookie I am going to include in my holiday cookie boxes.
I have a few strong opinions on how I like my gingerbread and this recipe fits the bill on every front. These cookies are tasty, classic, spice-flecked and a rich shade of brown - exactly what they were supposed to be.
Let's Make Strong Gingerbread Cookies
This isn't the time for chewy, moist, or flaky cookies. When you are making gingerbread men (or women) it's important to make a cookie that is crisp, sturdy, and a shade on the dry side. This is especially important if you are making large + tall gingerbread men, or using the recipe to create walls for a gingerbread house or structure. You should be able to hold you gingerbread cookies by one leg and not have the leg crumble or bend off. I'm not talking about making a gingerbread cracker here, but hopefully you get my drift. As you can see from the picture my gingerbread cookie is standing tall and straight. That's what you're after.
I love gingerbread cookies with some kick. No skimping on the spices please. This recipe is loaded with a generous dose of ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, and pepper. Every bite should have a spicy tingle to it. As they are baking, people should flock to the oven from the far recesses of the house to have a peek at the source of the wonderful smells. You can't be shy with the spices.
Gingerbread cookies look best when they're deep ginger in color, and spotted from head to toe with freckles of spices. The molasses in this recipe along with the generous amount of spices made for a nice, classic gingerbread appearance. I'm also picky about the shape and physique of my gingerbread people. I'm always on the lookout for cookie cutters that are just the right shape for them. Too squat or stubby is no good, but my current cutter (the one I used for these pics) is a tad on the lean side.
Decorating Gingerbread Cookies
I tend to opt for simplicity here. Sometimes just two little button dots are enough. I may do a few without the buttons and go for one tiny white heart sprinkled with a touch of sugar sparkles instead. A little variety is nice. And, although I like a cookie with higher frosting to cookie ratio, more elaborate frosting designs on gingerbread sometimes end up looking a little too krafty for my tastes.
Getting the baking time key. Whatever you do, don't over bake these guys. They will dry right out. If anything, under bake them just a shade. They will continue to bake for another couple of minutes once you pull them from the oven. Big cookies take longer to cook than tiny ones, keep that in mind as well.
A Clever Serving Idea
I was at a holiday part once where gingerbread cookies were baked onto popsicle sticks. They were arranged, bouquet-like, in a container filled with sugar. Kids loved eating them like lollipops.
Use all the Dough
My gingerbread men and women tend to bake alongside tiny gingerbread stars, hearts, and gingerbread candy canes. All made from dough scraps. You can gather your scraps and re-roll a couple of times to use as much of the dough as possible.
Overall, I love this gingerbread recipe, especially for cookies (and beyond!). It’s a classic dough that could easily be adapted for other gingerbread endeavors!
Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
I tend to use muscovado sugar for these cookies if I have it on hand. The deep molasses flavor is nice. That said, any dark brown sugar (preferably cane sugar), will work.
- 4 cups white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup dark natural cane sugar (or dark brown sugar), packed
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 cup organic unsulfured molasses (blackstrap)
- 2 cups / 200g powdered sugar
- 1 egg whites
- For decorating: large grain sugar (turbinado), and icing
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside. In a large bowl, by hand (or with an electric mixer), cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix again until light and creamy. Blend in the eggs one at a time and then the molasses. Add the flour mixture in two additions either by hand or on low speed. The dough should be easy to handle, and not overly tacky. If needed, add more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it isn't overly sticky. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap each in plastic and chill for an hour or so. Heat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the middle, and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop roughly 1/8-inch thick and cut into gingerbread cookie shapes. Transfer to baking sheets. Bake for 7 -10 minutes (for 3 - 4-inch cookies), less for smaller cookies, more for larger. Allow to cool completely before icing.
Whisk together the powdered sugar and egg white until smooth and silky. It takes a few minutes. Reserve a bit of this mixture if you like a more opaque icing. You can thin with water from here (one teaspoon at a time) depending on your preference. You can also add any coloring you like at this point. Use a brush (or piping bag) to paint the icing on the cookies, allow to dry completely, store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Makes about 3 dozen four-inch gingerbread men.