Every year for Christmas my mom goes all out with the baking. She makes sugar cookies, meringue cookies, fudge, corn flake marshmallow wreaths, lemon bars and sometimes more. One year she even made pralines. One year I decided to counter her Martha Stewart-esque bake-a-thon with some simple, classic homemade gingerbread cookies. They were such a hit that I make them now, year after year.
My original homemade gingerbread cookie recipe came from a woman I used to work with. I loved it. It was handwritten on a sheet of copy paper. She wrote it one day in my office from memory. You know it’s a special recipe when it’s committed to memory. But….we’ve moved five times since then and the recipe has been lost. Sigh.
For the past 3 years I’ve been hunting for a new recipe. I loved the one I tried last year. It was almost right. I tweaked it a little this year and am so pleased with how they turned out! But since I’ve been making Gingerbread Cookies for 8 years now I wanted to share a few tips I’ve learned along the way:
:: Workspace Tips
First you need a large, clean work space to roll out the dough. I like to give my countertops an extra cleaning before I roll out the dough just to be sure the surface is clean. The surface flour glides across the counters and the dough comes out smooth and doesn’t stick. I love to use Dreft All-Purpose Cleaner because it’s a tough formula that uses ingredients derived from natural sources. If it’s safe to use around my kids and on their toys, it’s safe enough for my cookies.
:: Rolling Out Tips
Once your countertops are clean, sprinkle a little flour on the surface to help keep the dough from sticking the counter. When rolling out the dough, I use small amounts at a time. For this recipe I typically break the chilled dough into 4 chunks. I keep the others in the fridge while I roll and bake one chunk at a time.
:: Baking Tips
I always bake the gingerbread men on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. This helps keep them from sticking and also makes clean-up a breeze. It’s also difficult to know when Gingerbread cookies are done. Cooking time varies by thickness. Generally you can tell when they are done when the edges start to get firm. Tap them gently with a spatula to test before pulling them out of the oven. And finally, let your cookie sheets cool completely between batches.
:: Cleaning Up Tips
A doughy floured surface can be a mess to clean. Dough doesn’t come up easily and flour is a mess when wet. To clean up my surface, I usually get a dry paper towel and wipe all of the dry flour into the sink or trashcan. This leaves behind just the stuck-on dough and only a little flour residue. Then use a sponge, wet paper towel, or my favorite, Dreft All Purpose Wipes, to finish the job.
Okay, now onto this Homemade Gingerbread Cookie Recipe. I think the reason I loved this one so much is the melting of the butter with the molasses. It really blends together well and creates the most deliciously soft cookies.
- 2¼ sticks Unsalted Butter
- ¾ cup Dark Molasses
- 1½ cups Sugar
- 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon All Spice
- 1 teaspoon Ginger
- 1 teaspoon Cloves
- ¾ cup Water
- 5 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- Place butter and molasses in a saucepan on low heat. Stir until the butter has melted.
- While butter is melting, combine sugar and spices in mixing bowl.
- Once the butter has melted, pour in the hot butter mixture into the mixing bowl.
- Stir until the sugar has dissolved. I use the lowest setting on my mixer.
- Add water and stir well.
- Add the flour and baking powder and continue to stir until a soft dough has formed.
- Wrap in plastic and chill the dough overnight.
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Line Cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to ¼ inch thick
- Use favorite cookie cutters to cut into desired shapes.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes (time varies based on thickness)
- Cool on a wire rack
- Once cool, decorate them!
- Store in an airtight container.
*Note: This recipe was adapted from Sweet Paul’s Childhood Gingerbread Recipe from Norway. His original recipe calls for Cardamon instead of All Spice. I loved the flavor of these. Perfect for something classic but ever so slightly different. But if you want classic gingerbread flavor, use the recipe above.
I’m not going to get into icing how-tos today. You can use royal icing and ice the entire cookie beautifully. But as you know I’m a fan of keeping things simple. I just buy the Wilton tubes and pipe on a face and buttons. Not only is it quick and easy but there’s not too much icing to take away from that yummy gingerbread flavor.