Tis the season for much joy, family, and holiday shopping, but also that of butter and sugar, that’s for certain. Although for some of us that sugar-filled season is all year round. But since gingerbread is the quintessential holiday baked good, I have a special place in my heart for it. And, believe it or not, it’s one of the only things I bake that both my kids love to eat. And of course they have heaps of fun decorating them. I think we all do! I think it’s because it really doesn’t take much to transform a cut-out gingerbread person into a delightful little rosy-cheeked man with a face almost too sweet to bite. Just like that they come to life–hello!. Aaand then we eat’em all up–goodbye.
Aside from being super-cute and lovable to look at, what do you think makes the “perfect” gingerbread cookie recipe? For me it’s a combination of things–very important things. First, the texture of the cookie needs to be fairly crispy along the outside with a semi-soft, cake-like inside, and like all “perfect” cut-out cookies, they definitely need to keep their shape when baked.
Secondly, they must taste sweet but notably spicy, and have a rich molasses flavour. Essentially they *must* taste like Christmas.
And while I think that there are many wonderful gingerbread recipes out there (including the recipe I often used and shared for the Jumbo Gingerbread Folk whom I continue to love and adore), I’ve found this variation to be one of favourites. I’ve made them with both “cooking molasses,” which lends to a robust, dark cookie (as shown in these photos), and with a much milder “fancy molasses,” as shown in the photos below with my cakelets. Both are delightful, and of course it’s personal preference on the intensity of the molasses flavour in your cookie. I just happen to love both the taste and the dark colour the cooking molasses lends.
Of course this gingerbread tastes just as amazing baked up as gingerbread houses, stars, unicorns, or anything else you or your cakelets feel inclined to create, but my heart belongs to the classic gingerbread boys. Kind of hard not to smile when you see them, which of course makes them perfect for sharing and gifting.
We’ve had many a gingerbread baking and decorating party here, and will squeeze a few more in before this season ends because it’s one of those things that genuinely makes my cakelets happy and perfectly content. I often bake several batches and freeze them undecorated, so that when the urge strikes we can pop a few out of the freezer and get our decorating fix. It works really well for rainy days and other times the kids get bored (other types of cutout cookies also work well!).
Let the gingerbread making begin! Or, well, continue.
And for other “perfect” cut-out cookie recipes, try my The Perfect Sugar Cookie and The Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie recipes. Let us cookie for the rest of eternity! When we’re not caking, that is. :)
December 22, 2014 note: I slightly decreased the molasses in this recipe, because I feel it makes for a bit more of a crisp cookie that maintains it’s semi-soft center.
Spicy, semi-soft gingerbread cookies with a slightly crispy edge, that keep their shapes perfectly when baked.
- 6 1/2 cups (815 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups (283 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup (220 g) light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup (220 g) cooking molasses
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- In large bowl, sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl between additions. Add molasses and vanilla and beat until completely incorporated.
- Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Dough should be soft (not dry or crumbly) but not sticky. If sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour until desired consistency is achieved.
- Divide the dough in 2, place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap, press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2" thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Chill the discs of dough for at least 2 hours.
- Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of lightly floured parchment or wax paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place two 1/4" wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
- Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it's flush with dowels--they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
- Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or freezer for 15 minutes (or more).
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two or three baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment. Remove the rolled dough from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters or template of choice, placing them on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the edges just start to brown, about 8 minutes for medium cookies, and 10 minutes for larger cookies (such as those in the photos).Be careful not to over-bake, or cookies will be dry. Collect remaining dough and re-roll once, repeating cutting and baking steps. Dough rolled out more than once will be a little tough, so it's best to keep it to a 2-time roll-out maximum.
- Cool sheets on wire racks for 20 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling. If cookies are too fragile, you can cool completely on trays.
- Decorate with royal icing, candies, sprinkles, and more.
- As mentioned in the post, I like to use cooking molasses for a dark, robust cookie. For a milder variety, try using fancy molasses.
- To create gingerbread families, I love this Gingerbread Family Cookie Cutter Set.
- Try using best-quality (and fresh) spices, such as Vietnamese Cinnamon (this stuff is also pretty amazing in my Cinnabon Style Cinnamon Buns and other desserts where cinnamon is the star).
- Use Royal Icing to decorate your heart out, and have fun with the cookie decorating! Let cakelets use pretty much any kind of candy and have fun experimenting with different “outfits” for the gingerbread folk–candies, licorice, sprinkles, chocolate chips, and more.
- Happy Holiday’ing! xo