Decorating a gingerbread person with royal icing.

Decorating a gingerbread person with royal icing. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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These darkly sweet, spiced cookies are the epitome of what the holidays should taste like… and they make your house smell pretty darned good when they are baking too. Plenty of ginger gives them a little bite and dark molasses and dark brown sugar add sweetness with lots of flavor. (If you like a little more spiciness, add 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper.)

As with any dough that you roll out and cut into shapes, be sure to chill it until cold so it’s easier to roll and transfer the shapes to the baking sheets. I like to roll mine so they are thick enough to easily decorate without breaking (and easier for little kiddo hands too).

Choose any shaped cutters you like, such as gingerbread men/women/kids, snowflakes, stars, Christmas trees, or stockings. You can decorate them before baking by pressing small candies, raisins or dried currants, or mini chocolate chips into the dough or sprinkle them with sparkle sugar. Or just leave them plain and make the royal icing in the recipe. The royal icing dries hard and is ideal for piping fine lines.

Gingerbread snowflakes with sparkle sugar.
Gingerbread snowflakes with sparkle sugar. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Recipe: Gingerbread Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)

Royal icing for piping (optional)

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

    1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the molasses and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    1. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
The combined gingerbread dough.
The combined gingerbread dough. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    1. Have ready 2 large pieces of parchment paper, each about 18 inches long. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a rectangle. Dust one piece of parchment with flour and roll out one dough half to 1/8-inch thick. Refrigerate or freeze until well chilled, then cut out cookies using a cookie cutter. Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough half. Press the scraps together into a disk and chill for 20 minutes before re-rolling and cutting the remaining dough. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
Roll out one dough half to 1/8-inch thick.
Roll out one dough half to 1/8-inch thick. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Refrigerate or freeze until well chilled, then cut out cookies using a cookie cutter.
Refrigerate or freeze until well chilled, then cut out cookies using a cookie cutter. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    1. While the dough cut-outs are chilling, preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the cookies until puffed and lightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the dough cut-outs are chilling, preheat the oven to 350F.
While the dough cut-outs are chilling, preheat the oven to 350F. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Bake the cookies until puffed and lightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes.
Bake the cookies until puffed and lightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    1. To make the icing, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the sugar and cream of tartar. Add the egg whites and beat until combined, scraping down the side of the bowl halfway through, about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Thin the icing with 1 to 2 teaspoons of water and beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed.
    2. Transfer the icing to a small piping bag with a very small plain tip. Decorate the cookies with the royal icing as you like.

Transfer the icing to a small piping bag with a very small plain tip. Decorate the cookies with the royal icing as you like.
Transfer the icing to a small piping bag with a very small plain tip. Decorate the cookies with the royal icing as you like. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Author

Kim Laidlaw

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook author, editor, food writer, producer, project manager, and baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. She has over 16 years of experience in book and online publishing, and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen.

Her first cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, was published in 2011; her second cookbook, Baby & Toddler On the Go, was published in April 2013; and her third cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day, was published in October 2013.

She was the first blogger on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog, which launched in 2005, and previously worked as a professional baker at La Farine French Bakery in Oakland, CA. She lives in Petaluma with her husband and their child, whom she cooks for everyday. Find out more at http://www.kimlaidlaw.com.

Author

Wendy Goodfriend

I am the Senior Interactive Producer for KQED Food. I have designed and produced food-related websites and blogs for KQED including Bay Area Bites; Check, Please! Bay Area;  Taste This; Jacques Pepin's websites; Weir Cooking in the City and KQED Food. When I am not creating and managing food websites I am taking photos and video of Bay Area Life and designing online navigation systems. My professional education and training includes: clinical psychology, photography, commercial cooking, web design, information architecture and UX. You can find me engaged in social media on Twitter @bayareabites and on Facebook at Bay Area Bites. I can also be found photoblogging at look2remember.