About Gingerbread Cookies
We’re knee-deep in the holiday season – or, over in my corner of the world, what we call cookie season – and the baking in my house is in full swing.
And one traditional cookie that’s on every cookie exchange list?
Whether you call them gingerbread men or simply gingerbread, they’ve managed to become a holiday staple with their spicy flavor and soft-to-crunchy texture.
Plus, they’re absolutely the best for decorating, whether you’re decorating the cookies or creating a gingerbread house.
What can you make with gingerbread?
This dough is perfect for making Christmas cookies, and if you bake this recipe as directed, you’ll be decorating gingerbread men or snowflakes in no time. I’ve tried many recipes over the years and this is the best recipe I’ve found!
If you want to make a gingerbread house, you would use the same recipe, but would bake it closer to the end of the recommended baking time. This will ensure that the cookies are extra dry and firm. You want to make sure that the house you make will keep its shape and the walls or roof won’t bend after it’s decorated, so a strong cookie is crucial.
And, finally, this gingerbread recipe can be adapted to make gingerbread ornaments. Check out this post for instructions!
How do you decorate gingerbread men cookies?
When it comes to giving your cookies a festive look, you can’t go wrong with royal icing. It’s the absolute go-to for cookies because it’s easy to use while wet, dries hard, and has a delicious taste. It makes for delicious cookies that are easy to stack and store.
You can adjust the consistency of your royal icing by adding more or less water to any recipe.
If you’re decorating classic cookies (like the ones pictured here) using royal icing with a firm to wet consistency is best. Use a firm consistency to define the edges and outline your designs, and then use watery royal icing to fill in large areas.
If you’re making a gingerbread house, make your royal with a firm consistency so that it will quickly bond the pieces of gingerbread together. Once you’ve got the framework of the gingerbread house and other accents, then you can follow up and fill large areas with watery royal icing.
If you have any other questions about to use or prepare royal icing, be sure to check out this post!
Do you need to chill the dough?
This particular recipe calls for chilling the cookie dough for two hours.
I know it can be frustrating to put your baking on hold, but when it comes to cookies, chilling the dough is totally worth the impact it as on your baking.
The short explanation for chilling has to do with the butter. The firmer the butter is at the time of baking, the slower it will melt, which makes cookies less likely to spread while baking. So, as a general rule of thumb, chilling the dough will lead to more dense, fluffy cookies while not chilling will lead to flatter, cheweir cookies. This is not always the case, though. Whether you need to chill depends largely on the amount of butter used AND the composition of the other ingredients.
If you’d like a more indepth explanation of chilling dough (with examples!) then check out this article: To Chill or not to Chill.
Can you freeze gingerbread cookies?
Yes, you totally can!
However, for best results, the cookies should be frozen before decorating.
To freeze, store the baked gingerbread cookies in a single layer in a freezer bag or storage container. If you need to stack the cookies, separate each layer with a sheet of wax paper.
Cookies can be frozen for up to three months.
Can you make gingerbread houses with this recipe?
I personally have not make a gingerbread house with this recipe, but I can confirm that the recipes are the same. So the same recipe that can make gingerbread men cookies (like this one) can also be used for making a gingerbread house.
The only difference between the two is how long the gingerbread is baked. For houses, gingerbread is baked a bit longer. This is because gingerbread pieces tend to be larger than standard cookies and you want to make sure the gingerbread is “sturdy” enough to keep the shape of the house.
So when setting the timer on your oven, make sure to lean toward the higher end of the recommended cook time. If needed, bake for one additional minute at a time, checking the gingerbread after each increase. The gingerbread should be very firm and not bend, but also not become too dark or burned. The gingerbread will also harden while it cools. And if in doubt, you can always leave the gingerbread out overnight to harden it some more.
Notes & tips for these gingerbread cookies
- If you’re doing a lot of holiday baking, I highly recommend having some silicone baking mats or silicone baking mats on hand. Baking cookies takes enough time without having to cut or measure parchment paper.
- Plus, some quality baking sheets are a must for a cookie baking extravaganza!
- For this recipe, I highly recommend using a stand mixer or a hand mixer. This recipe would be difficult to make by hand with a whisk.
More fun cookie recipes
How to make gingerbread men cookies
This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.
Step 2 – Add softened butter to the bowl, mixing until the ingredients appear broken up and crumbly.
Step 3 – Next, pour in the molasses and milk, taking care to mix them in thoroughly. The dough should appear shiny and a little bit fluffy at this stage.
Step 4 – Lay out two pieces of parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and place each piece on its own sheet of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough, then use your hands (or a rolling pin) to flatten the dough.
Step 5 – Transfer the dough to the refrigerator to chill for two hours.
Step 6 – Dust your work area with flour before bringing out the first half of the gingerbread dough (leave the other half in the fridge to chill while you work). Remove the parchment paper, flour up a rolling pin, and roll out the gingerbread until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. From there, flour your desired cookie cutters and cut out shapes in the gingerbread dough. Once cut, transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or baking silicone mats. Continue flouring, rolling, and cutting the gingerbread dough until all of it has been used.
Step 7 – Bake!
Step 8 – Serve or decorate as you desire!
Watch the recipe video
Nothing says the holidays like gingerbread! Easy to make and quick to bake, these classic gingerbread cookies are a cookie exchange staple.
Set mixer speed to low and add in butter. Mix until butter is broken up and mixture appears crumbly, about 5-7 minutes.
Keeping speed on low, pour mix in molasses and milk, one at a time, mixing thoroughly in between. Dough is ready when ingredients appear fully incorporated and batter appears fluffy and shiny.
Divide dough in half. Place each piece of dough on a piece of parchment paper, then use your hands to mold the dough into an oval shape. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough, then use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to about 1/2 inch thick. See above video for example.
Chill dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator (or 20 minutes in the freezer).
To cut cookies, prepare your work surface by dusting it with flour. Also coat your hands, cookie cutters, and rolling pin with flour, and set a bowl of flour nearby in case the dough begins to stick. When ready to work dough, remove one layer of parchment paper and lay the dough, exposed side down, on your prepared work surface. Remove the second piece of parchment paper and dust the exposed dough with flour. Use the rolling pin to roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness, then cut the dough with your floured cookie cutters. Arranged cut cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart. When you have cut all the cookies you can from a roll of dough, collect the scraps, flour your surface and tools, and roll dough out again. If dough ever becomes too soft, repeat the step of flattening it between the parchment paper and place it back in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes. Repeat this step until all the dough is used or cookie sheets are full.
Bake cookies for 8-11 minutes or until cookies turn a deep golden color. If baking two cookie sheets at once, rotate baking sheets halfway through cooking time.
Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Once cooled, decorate cookies as desired. Cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.