Whether or not you actually like gingerbread cookies is kinda irrelevant. You make them every single year because they make people happy. And because they’re so damn adorable. We tested this recipe over and over (and over again) until it was perfect. And we think you’ll actually like these and even start to look forward to them because these are soft and full of warm spice. Here’s everything you should know.
Softened butter > melted butter.
Melted butter will lead to denser cookies. We like our gingerbread people soft and almost a little fluffy. For this texture, you need to cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. And for this, the butter needs to be nice and soft.
There’s a way to soften butter faster.
On the counter, butter can take forever to soften. I always like to cut my stick into tablespoon tabs to maximize surface area (and exposure to warmth). If even that isn’t fast enough, I microwave the stick(s) on a very low level and check on it every 10 seconds. It sounds excessive, but it’s necessary. Otherwise, half it will be melted.
The type of molasses you use can make a BIG difference.
When we ran out of Grandma’s Molasses in our test kitchen and used Wholesome (a brand we found at Whole Foods), the cookies came out many shades darker. They still tasted amazing and looked very cute, but the difference was surprising. Especially considering that they looked very similar in the jar.
You can change the amount of spices.
For me, gingerbread should have a lot of ground ginger, a bit of cinnamon, and a tiny amount of cloves. It’s the perfect Christmas formula. But if you don’t have cloves (or really loathe them), you can just leave them out. As for the ginger, it’s necessary but negotiable. Feel free to use less.
Don’t skip the chill time!
Even if the dough seems rollable after mixing, DO NOT skip refrigerating it. If you roll the dough out before it’s really firm, the gingerbread people won’t keep their shape in the oven. Be patient and wait at least 3 hours.
You can make the dough ahead of time.
The dough will stay good in the fridge for about 2 days wrapped in plastic wrap. If the disc feels super stiff, just let it be on your counter for a bit until it’s more pliable.
Cookies will stay good for up to one week.
If you store them in an airtight container at room temperature, they’ll stay amazing and soft. Although it’s very doubtful that they’ll last longer than 10 minutes once they’re on a platter.
You can bake the cookies ahead of time.
If you want to plan ahead of time, you can bake and decorate the cookies completely. Just keep them in an airtight container, separated by wax paper, until ready to serve. If you want to bake the cookies ahead of time, but leave the decorating for later, let the cookies cool completely before freezing them.
Have fun decorating gingerbread cookies.
Make up a batch of royal icing or sugar cookie icing and turn your cookies into little gents. You’ll want to keep your icings at a slightly stiffer consistency so it holds its shape perfectly. Use a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip to outline your cookies or add little zigzags on the arms and legs. Dye your icing red, green, or any color you like to add buttons and little bowties!
They make great gifts!
Because they last for a while and they’re sturdy, these make great treats to share with friends, family, and neighbors. They ship well too!
Made them? Let us know how it went in the comment section below!
PREP TIME: 0 HOURS 15 MINS
TOTAL TIME: 3 HOURS 15 MINS
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. molasses
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2″ piece fresh ginger, grated (optional)
Zest of 1 orange (optional)
1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper (optional)
Sugar Cookie Icing, for decorating
Sprinkles, for decorating
1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and molasses until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, spices, baking soda, and salt until combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, as well as fresh ginger, orange zest, and black pepper (if using), until dough just comes together. (Do not overmix!)
3. Divide dough in half and create two discs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 to 3 hours. (Alternatively, divide dough in half and roll each piece of dough between two pieces of parchment to 1/4″ thick. Chill until firm.)
4. Preheat oven to 350° and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place one disc of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll until 1/4″ thick. (Alternatively, peel off both sheets of parchment from dough, then replace one sheet of parchment back underneath dough.) Cut out gingerbread men with a 3″ wide cutter and transfer to baking sheets.
5. Bake until slightly puffed and set, 9 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookie cutters. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
6. Repeat with remaining disc of dough. Decorate with icing and sprinkles as desired.