There are recipes I only make once, then there are the ones that come back year after year. These gingerbread men are one of those recipes! I have a rotation of about 20 different Christmas cookies I love, and I always try a few new ones each year, but Gingerbread is just something I want every single Christmas. It doesn’t feel complete without it!
I’ve tried so many different recipes. Then Ryan came in to the picture of my life, and low and behold, he also loves gingerbread at Christmas. His family are huge ginger-anything fans, so he’s a tough critic. When we came across this recipe by Sally’s Baking Addiction, we both agreed it was the best we’ve had! Typically, I find her recipes a bit sweet, but she hit the nail on the head with this one. Ryan loves the level of spiciness. I love that too, and that they’re crispy on the outside but still have some softness inside. It doesn’t feel like I’m going to break my teeth, but they still snap when you break them in half. To me, that’s exactly what a gingerbread cookie should be!
How to NOT eat them all at once
Our friend Cali was staying with us last week after watching our pets for us while we were away at our World Championships race. She was asking me how I bake so much, but don’t just end up snacking on the baked goods 24/7. Well, I totally do. I meant to talk more on this blog about how I store things I bake to use later for training, or just avoid consuming them all in one go. I got so excited about posting recipes that I kind of forgot about that; it was the perfect reminder! My secret is I freeze things. You can freeze pretty much any baked good and pull it out as you need.
For this recipe, you could either freeze the raw dough itself, or the unbaked cookies. What I like to do is roll out the raw dough and shape it in to gingerbread men, and cut them out with my cookie cutters. Then, I put the raw cookie cut outs on a cookie sheet that will fit in my freezer, lined with parchment paper. I freeze them like this. Once they’re frozen, you can pull them off the parchment and put them in a ziplock bag to store in the freezer until you want to bake some! Thaw them on a cookie sheet on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking. The icing also freezes really well, so you can do the same with it. You could (but I wouldn’t recommend) bake the cookies and then freeze them, but I find they get a bit soggy once they’re thawed, and if you’ve iced them then they really end up a soggy mess. This makes a fair bit of dough, so sometimes I’ll use half of it and then freeze the other half just as a big ball of dough to use up a few weeks later.
Icing for Decorating
For decorating, you can find the Royal Icing recipe here. Royal Icing is the standard icing used for cookie decorating. A few years ago, I took a whole class from a professional cookie decorator about how to make proper royal icing, and make beautiful cookies!
The Best Gingerbread Recipe on the Internet
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Yield: 24 four-inch cookies
10 Tablespoons (2/3 cup; 145g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup (300g) packed light or dark brown sugar
2/3 cup (200g) molasses
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (470g) all-purpose flour (spoon & levelled)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground ginger (yes, 1 full Tablespoon!)
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
(Copied from Sally’s Baking Addiction's original recipe)
In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat on medium high speed until combined and creamy-looking. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Next, beat in egg and vanilla on high speed for 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. The butter may separate; that's ok.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be quite thick and slightly sticky.
Divide dough in half and place each onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap each up tightly and pat down to create a disc shape. Chill discs for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days (I recommend 24 hours). Chilling is mandatory for this cookie dough. The dough will be too sticky to roll without chilling, and it will taste much better after it has some time to "marinade"!
Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
Remove 1 disc of chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator. Generously flour a work surface, as well as your hands and the rolling pin. Don't be afraid to continually flour the work surface as needed- this dough can be sticky. Roll out disc until 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes. Place shapes 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Re-roll dough scraps until all the dough is shaped. Repeat with remaining disc of dough.
Bake cookies for about 9-10 minutes. If your cookie cutters are smaller than 4 inches, bake for about 8 minutes. If your cookie cutters are larger than 4 inches, bake for about 11 minutes. My oven has hot spots and yours may too- so be sure to rotate the pan once during bake time.
Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. Once completely cool, decorate as desired.
Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. Or, here are instructions on how to freeze the dough for future use!
For decorating, you can find my Royal Icing recipe here! If you want to keep things simple, just make the hybrid icing. Bake the cookies and let them cool, then ice your cookies, and dunk the iced bits in to bowls of colourful Christmas sprinkles when the icing is wet! I like to ice little boots or toques on my gingerbread men, dunk them in red sprinkles, and then ice on little buttons, eyes and smiley faces :)