Best Gingerbread Cookies Ever
This past weekend was so festive! I’m definitely someone who can’t quite get into the holiday swing of things until we hit December, and as soon as we got our Christmas tree this past Saturday, the kids went crazy happy with decorating and all of a sudden it felt like the holidays were here! So when we were invited over for a dinner gathering with friends and they asked us to bring dessert, knowing that one of our hosts doesn’t like chocolate, I figured, why not gingerbread cookies?
My very favorite gingerbread cookie recipe comes from my trustworthy Baking Illustrated cookbook. Around the holidays I use this recipe for gingerbread people (or ninjabread people, per below photo!), and what I love about these cookies is that they aren’t rock hard crunchy, testing your dental strength and spraying crumbs all over your shirt with each bite. These cookies are a touch crispy around the edges but chewy throughout, and the sweetness level (not overly sweet) is just right. Every time I make these cookies in gingerbread people form, people go crazy!
But on Sunday I was too lazy (and it felt too early) to roll out and cut gingerbread people, so I just made regular cookies with this dough and they were fantastic. Below is an annotated version of Baking Illustrated’s “Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookie” recipe including my instructions for how to make the quick cookies. And I’m also adding in my egg-white-free icing recipe because: 1) using raw egg whites kind of freaks me out even though I’m sure I have eaten plenty of frosted cookies using raw egg whites; and 2) weirdly, the Baking Illustrated recipe did not include one with the gingerbread cookie recipe.
If you would like to print this recipe, I recommend you go to printfriendly.com and plug this URL (https://www.bostonmamas.com/blog/best-gingerbread-cookies) into their PDF generator!
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 ½ stick) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup molasses (if you find yourself a little short, you can sub in corn syrup #speakingfromexperience)
2 tablespoons milk
Process dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a food processor until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms a soft mass, about 10 seconds. (You can also follow this process with a hand mixer.)
If you are making gingerbread people, divide dough in half and roll out between two sheets of parchment until about 1/4” thick. Leave dough between parchment layers and place in freezer until firm (about 15 minutes). You can also make the dough the day before and refrigerate sheets overnight. Note: this refrigeration/freezing process is important! The dough will cut and release easier from the cookie cutters when very firm. If you are making regular gingerbread cookies, divide the dough into 30 pieces. I did this by flattening the dough into the bottom of my bowl then cutting 10 “slices” like a pie. Then I removed each slice, divided it into into 3 pieces, and rolled each piece into a ball, flattening until about 2-2.5 inches wide (just over 1/4” thick). Place the cookie circles on parchment and freeze 15-20 minutes.
Adjust oven racks to upper and lower positions and heat to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheets with nonstick spray, or use a Silpat mat (these mats are the best; they make cookie edges come out perfect every time). If you are making gingerbread people, remove one dough sheet and peel off top parchment sheet. Cut gingerbread shapes and transfer shapes to sheet, spacing about ¾ inch apart. Collect scraps and roll out between parchment and freeze as above. Repeat process until all dough is used up. If you are making regular gingerbread cookies, simply lay the cookie rounds on the cookie sheets and pop into the oven.
Bake cookies until set in the center and dough barely retains an imprint when touched very gently with a fingertip, about 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake! Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
Make icing (see below) and ice accordingly!
Egg-white free cookie Icing RECIPE
As I mentioned above, using raw egg whites in icing kind of freaks me out. The good news is that you can totally make cookie decorating icing without it and it’s super simple!
1 cup of powdered sugar
2-2.5 tablespoons of milk or water (adjust this amount to 2.5-3 tablespoons to make “flood” icing; see instructions below)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavor extract (optional)
Mix above ingredients, mashing any sugar lumps out with a spoon.
If you are making gingerbread people, you will want to make multiple batches of this recipe and add food coloring. With cookie decorating you might have heard the terms “border” vs. “flood” icing. Border icing is, as it sounds, for border elements and needs to be a bit stiffer, whereas flood icing needs to spread easily before hardening. Personally, I have found that it is sufficient to just make the above recipe (border icing).
If you are making regular gingerbread cookies, use a spoon to drizzle this icing across the cookies.