As far as I’m concerned, the best part of making gingerbread cookies (besides eating them) is letting your children decorate them. If the thought of the mess scares you, you can flat ice them with royal icing first, let it dry until it is completely set and then give the kids edible food markers and let them have at it.
If you love gingerbread & gingersnaps this recipe is for you. I am a fan of both so as far as gingerbread recipes go the flavor of this one is very much on the gingersnap side. If you like a milder flavor cut back on the ginger and the clove a little and you will still have a delicious, sturdy cookie. This recipe makes cookies that are sturdy enough to stand up to decorating, or being made into a house and being packaged for gifts, but not so hard that it will break your teeth.
If you are interested in the history of gingerbread check out this quick read from The Smithsonian.
- 6 oz unsalted butter soft
- 5 oz shortening can use all butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar packed
- 2 lg eggs
- 11 oz molasses (1 cup minus 2 Tbs)
- 5 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and/or shortening and brown sugar until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the eggs and molasses and beat until well combined.
On low speed, add in the flour mixture and mix until a soft dough is formed.
Divide the dough into two roughly equal pieces. Flatten into disks. Wrap tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until firm enough to roll.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
On a lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out half of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness (keep the other half of the dough refrigerated until you are ready to roll).
Dip your cookie cutters in flour and cut out as many cookies as possible.
*see notes section
Place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets and bake until the edges are starting to brown 10-12 minutes.
Leave cookies to cool on the pans for about 5 minutes and then move to cooling racks until cool enough to frost.
Frost as desired with royal icing.
- This is a soft dough so keep unused dough portions in the refrigerator when you are not working with them.
- If you are having trouble retaining shapes, when transferring your cookies to the cookie sheets, roll and cut your cookies on a Silpat. When done cutting, remove excess dough around your cookies and place the entire silat in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes. Your cookies will now be easy to lift with a spatula and transfer without loosing shape.
This is the only royal icing recipe that I use for cookies, gingerbread houses and fondant cake detail work. It’s easy to work with, sets quickly, and doesn’t use raw egg whites. Best of all, it dries just hard enough to paint on and package but not so hard that it will break a tooth.
In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat all of the icing ingredients together on medium speed for 5 minutes - start the mixer on low to avoid being covered in powdered sugar.
I start with 6 Tablespoons of water, you may need to add more if you live somewhere that is dry or you like a looser icing for flooding cookies.
When lifting the paddle up off the icing, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within 10-15 seconds. If it's too thick, add more water. If it's too thin, add more sifted confectioners' sugar.
When you're not working directly with the royal icing (for example, if you are dividing your icing to make multiple colors), place a damp paper towel directly on the surface of the royal icing. This prevents it from hardening.
This icing dries in about 2 hours at room temperature but I usually leave my cookies to dry 8 hours or overnight if I am packaging them for gifts or for children to decorate with edible markers.