My family makes gingerbread every Christmas – in one form or another. When I was little, we would throw a birthday party for baby Jesus, and Mom baked a gingerbread house for every family. These days we keep it simpler – just a batch or two of gingerbread men for the church Christmas shindig. The year I made 8 gingerbread houses and eighty-something ninja-bread men for a youth party is an outlier, and should not be counted.
All that to say, our go-to gingerbread recipe is a workhorse. But as I’ve gotten older and my love for ginger has grown, the old recipe has started to taste flat – lots of molasses and cinnamon, and not enough sparkly ginger kick.
So, I tried a new one.
These cookies are deeply spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and just a kiss of clove. And, although the orange zest is optional, don’t skip it – it is just enough to pop the ginger without making everything taste of citrus. I love them. But I’m not quite sure they’re my perfect cookie.
I’ll just have to keep baking to find out.
Yield: 20-40 cookies Time: about an hour Source: adapted, barely, from Gimme Some Oven
If you, like my family, keep your molasses cold, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it pours freely. Please make sure that there is no metal left on the rim under the cap. Also, if you measure your molasses into another container before adding it to the bowl, hit that container with a quick spritz of non-stick spray. All your molasses will end up in your cookies and not inside your measuring cup.
- 171 grams (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 119 grams dark brown sugar
- 464 grams all-purpose flour
- 8 grams (1 tablespoon) ground cinnamon
- 7 grams (1 tablespoon) ground ginger
- 1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) freshly ground nutmeg
- 0.5 gram (1/4 teaspoon) ground clove
- 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt
- 8 grams (3/4 teaspoon) baking soda
- 1 ea large egg
- 186 grams unsulfured molasses
- 7 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
- 1 ea orange, zest only (optional, but highly encouraged)
- Royal icing, sprinkles, sanding sugar, small candies, etc. for decorating.
Beat the butter, brown sugar, and orange zest in the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment until it has lightened in color by about two shades. You should feel only small remnants of sugar crystals when you put a dab of the mixture on your tongue. This should take about five minutes on medium speed.
While you are creaming the butter and sugar, deal with your dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Set this aside.
Once your butter mixture is nice and creamy, scrape down the bowl. Add the egg, molasses, and vanilla, and beat until no dark brown streaks remain and everything seems well mixed. You will need to scrape down your bowl at least twice during this process – the molasses sinks to the bottom. When everything is completely incorporated, the mixture may look a little curdled. This is fine.
Scrape down the bowl again, then add the dry ingredients you whisked together earlier. Mix this on low speed until only small streaks of dry flour remain. Finish mixing the dough with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, then divide in half.
Here is where you have options. If you’re looking for a more leisurely cookie experience, flatten the dough into 1-inch-thick discs, wrap in plastic or waxed paper, and chill for at least two hours. Once the dough is firm all the way through, remove it from the fridge. Roll approximately 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface.
If you are in a hurry and need your cookies now, take your dough half and roll it to approximately 1/8 inch thick between two pieces of parchment. Put the parchment-dough-parchment sandwich on a cookie sheet and pop it in the freezer until it is completely firm, 10-15 minutes. I can tell when the dough is ready when I can pick up the dough sheet by the edge without it bending. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Preheat your oven to 350°F (176°C).
Cut out your cookies! I was lazy and went with approximately 3 inch squares I made with a pizza cutter, but any shape you want will work fine. Re-roll any scraps, and keep cutting until you have no dough left, putting the dough in the freezer to firm back up if it gets to soft to deal with. Transfer your cookies to a parchment-lined cookie sheet, using a small spatula if you need to to help support more delicate shapes.
Bake until the cookies are firm around the edges but still a bit soft in the middle, rotating halfway through baking. In my oven, this took 8-10 minutes.
Cool completely before decorating.
These will keep in an airtight container for about four days.