Maybe I’m biased because I’m a ginger, but I love gingerbread more than any other holiday flavor. Don’t get me wrong. Peppermint is nice, hot cocoa is fabulous, and eggnog is — well, eggnog is nasty. But since childhood, gingerbread, especially gingerbread cookies, have always been my favorite.
For me, biting into a cute little man with royal icing eyes and gumdrop buttons takes me back to my childhood. There was a bakery near our home where my mom would take me at Christmas to get one of their gingerbread men. The bakery made their gingerbread men with raisins for buttons, and although I ordinarily loathe raisins in anything, I loved them just this one time of year in the gingerbread men.
A couple of Christmases ago, once I had started dipping my toes in the from-scratch baking waters, I attempted to make homemade gingerbread cookies.
Y’all. They were a disaster!
I don’t even recall at this point where I had gotten the recipe (in all likelihood, AllRecipes.com), but through some combination of too little molasses and not following the directions to let the dough chill, they puffed out enormously and ended up like cakes.
This year I decided to try again, and after three batches — each progressively more successful than the last — I can happily say that I’ve tweaked the recipe I found to my liking and am very pleased with the results. To give credit where it is due, the recipe below is my own tweaked version of the Pioneer Woman’s gingerbread cookie recipe.
Although the dough does need a fair amount of time to chill, and there really is no getting around this fact, I would venture to say that these cookies are oh so worth it in the end. Cooking them at the thickness and time specified below in my version of the recipe, they end up nice and chewy. (For what it’s worth, the Pioneer Woman’s specifications leave them crisper, if that’s more your cookie style.)
Finally, no gingerbread cookie would be complete without ample royal icing, sprinkles, M&Ms, gumdrops — you name it!
For one of the test batches I did, I used a hodgepodge of Christmas mini cookie cutters — bells, stars, candy canes, stockings, trees, and lights. These were great fun to decorate. For the most recent batch I did, for a tacky sweater party I hosted, I found a sweater shaped cookie cutter and did ugly sweater cookies.
- 3 cups flour
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup molasses
Set out butter at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Whisk together flour, salt, and spices.
Beat butter and brown sugar together in a stand mixer on medium until it is the consistency of lightly wet sand.
Add egg and molasses to stand mixer, and beat lightly until combined.
Add flour mixture by the cup-full, beating on medium, until all is added. The dough should have just enough liquid to absorb all dry ingredients, but it should still crumble a bit when you handle it.
Wrap ball of dough in cling wrap tightly, ensuring none of it is exposed to air. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least five hours.
When you are ready to bake, remove the ball of dough from the refrigerator about half an hour prior to baking. Preheat oven to 350.
Roll dough to desired thickness (the cookies will not “puff” and lose the shape of the cookie cutter, even if they are thick). Cut into desired shapes, and bake for 10-11 minutes.
All at least 30 minutes for cooling prior to decoration.