What’s Up, Hungry People!
Santa Claus is coming to town which can only mean one thing: COOKIES!!! And not just any cookies – gingerbread cookies. One of the very first foods I can recall baking with my family is gingerbread cookies. As the story goes, one of the very first batches we ever made we gave to my grandparents – but the cookies were so hard they were inedible, so my grandpa ended up drilling holes in the top of a few of them to hang on the Christmas tree.
Thankfully, I didn’t inherit my cooking skills from my parents. I have many fond memories of Christmases with my fam, and this year will be no different!
Here’s What You Need
- Flour: Base ingredient for dough structure.
- Brown Sugar: Adds sweetness and moisture.
- Egg: Binds ingredients and provides texture.
- Honey OR Molasses: Enhances flavor and moistness.
- Ginger Powder: Signature spice for gingerbread flavor.
- Nutmeg: Adds warmth and depth of flavor.
- Cinnamon: Provides a warm and aromatic taste.
- Vanilla Extract: Enhances overall flavor profile.
- Baking Soda: Helps cookies rise and become light.
- Salt: Balances flavors and enhances taste.
- Powdered Sugar: Sweetens and thickens icing.
- Milk: Achieves desired icing consistency.
- Egg Whites: Creates a smooth, glossy finish when dried.
There are two different ways you can make gingerbread cookies – the more traditional route is to use molasses, but I know some people prefer using honey instead because it makes for a lighter, sweeter cookie. And then most people don’t know what to do with the leftover molasses, so it goes to waste (though I’d definitely suggest molasses for the cookies, then use the rest of the molasses to make a BBQ sauce!).
Begin by creaming together the butter, eggs, sugars, molasses, ginger, and spices. Slowly add the flour, baking soda, and salt until a thick dough forms. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. It shouldn’t stick to your fingers when you touch it but it should definitely still be soft.
Knead the dough into a ball, then flatten it with your palms on a floured surface.
Use a rolling pin to roll the gingerbread dough out to be about a quarter to a half inch thick. The thicker the dough, the softer the cookies will be. Since I wanted to make a fluffy icing, I intentionally rolled mine closer to a quarter of an inch for a crisper cookie.
Time for Some Festive Fun: Cookie Cutting!
Last year I ordered a set of Christmas sweater cookie cutters, which then proceeded to take much longer than I anticipated to arrive. I missed getting the chance to use them last year, so I made extra sure I had them ready to go this year.
Cut out the cookies and use a spatula to transfer the cookies from the cutting surface to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave about a half-inch space between the cookies so they can expand.
Baking and Icing
Once the cookies are finished baking, remove them from the baking sheet and arrange them on a cooling rack to cool completely. You don’t want the cookies to be warm at all when you decorate them, otherwise, you’ll be in for a huge mess of delicious runny icing.
Make the icing by beating together the powdered sugar, egg whites, and milk. When the icing is stiff, remove about a cup of icing for making the cookie edges and put it in an icing bag. Then add a few tablespoons to the icing to thin it out. I used a flooding technique to decorate my cookies, but definitely feel free to do your thang when decorating!
Let the Creativity Flow: Decorating Your Gingerbread Cookies
I started by outlining all of the cookies in white, then filled the centers with the appropriate colors. I used plain white in my snowmen, then red or green on everything else.
I also made sure to grab some cute candy hearts to use as buttons on my snowmen – er… I mean, snowpeople.
I decorated my cookies with sprinkles, but I know other people like to use a variety of candies when it comes to decorating gingerbread cookies.
Helpful Tips & Tricks for Holiday Cookies
- Chill Out for Easier Cutting: Chill the dough for 15-30 minutes before rolling for smoother cutting and less sticking.
- Flour Power: Sprinkle flour on the rolling pin and work surface to prevent the dough from sticking.
- Room Temp Perfection: Allow the egg to reach room temperature before using to ensure proper incorporation.
- Storing Goodness: Store leftover royal icing in an airtight container to keep it fresh for future decorating sessions.
- Avoid Crowding: Leave enough space between cookies on the baking sheet to allow for even baking and rising.
- Texture Testing: Adjust the icing’s consistency by adding small amounts of powdered sugar or milk until you achieve the desired thickness.
- Practice Makes Perfect: Don’t worry if your decorating skills are a bit rustic at first – decorating takes practice, and every cookie is a delightful masterpiece!
- Get Creative: Experiment with various cookie cutter shapes and decorations – let your inner artist shine!
- Spread the Joy: Share your gingerbread cookies with loved ones and enjoy the festive spirit of baking and decorating together.
The Sweetest Part: Sharing the Joy
The most important part about decorating these cookies is doing it with those that you love the most – decorations are just the icing on the cookie, so to speak.
So, Hungry People, whether you’re following the molasses path or the honey trail, these gingerbread cookies are bound to be a hit at your festive gatherings. Get your creative juices flowing and have a blast decorating these delightful treats. Let’s spread some holiday cheer, one delicious cookie at a time!
Ugly Christmas Sweater Gingerbread Cookies
FOR GINGERBREAD COOKIES:
FOR ROYAL ICING:
- 16 oz powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup milk
- 2 egg whites
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Whisk together dry cookie ingredients in one bowl, excluding the brown and white sugar.
- Use a stand mixer to beat together the sugars and butter until creamed together. Then add the egg, vanilla, and honey.
- Combine the whisked dry ingredients with the creamed sugar mixture, adding 1/4 cup at a time until incorporated into a smooth batter that shouldn't be too sticky to the touch. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky to work with until you can grab balls of it that don't stick to your fingers.
- Dust a smooth surface with flour and roll out the dough to be about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutter to make shapes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the cookies on the baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly puffed up and beginning to brown.
- Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes to finish cooking, then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool down completely.
- Make the icing by whipping together all of the ingredients, adding more powdered sugar if it's too runny and more milk if it's too dry. You want it to be about the thickness of toothpaste, maybe a tad smoother.
- If you are going to use different colors, separate the icing into smaller bowls, color them, then spoon the icing into plastic baggies and cut off just the tip of one corner to make a simple pastry bag. Decorate with gumdrops, cinnamon buttons, chocolate chips, or whatever you desire.
- Serve the cookies to Santa and enjoy!