Bake up a holiday memory with this super easy Gingerbread Cookies recipe, then simply decorate with royal icing or add your favourite candy decorations.
Cut out cookies are so fun to make and look gorgeous on any Holiday goodie tray. Dig out those festive cookie cutters and make these classic Brown Sugar Shortbread stars or delicious Cinnamon Walnut Cookies. Decorate them as much as you like, or keep them simple and elegant.
Easy Gingerbread Cookies
There’s a reason gingerbread cookies have withstood the test of time for everyone’s favourite Christmas cookie. The warmly scented dough is a joy to roll out and their wonderful baking aromas fill your entire home. It’s an aroma that brings a sense of warmth and love.
The joy of holiday baking grows exponentially when combined with the action of giving. Bake up a batch of these easy gingerbread cookies and share them with friends and neighbours. They’re guaranteed to bring smiles to the most grinch-like of holiday naysayers.
Gingerbread cookie decorating makes a fabulous activity for holiday parties. You can use this recipe to make classic gingerbread men, other Christmas shapes, or even a gingerbread house!
Just mix up a few batches of royal icing (in multiple colours) and gather sprinkles or decorative candies to add to the fun. Don’t forget the gumdrop buttons!
The Birth of a Classic
Most people recognize gingerbread (a baked confection containing ginger and other spices) as being German in origin. However, this confection had a well traveled history before it even reached Germany (in what is the Alsace-Moselle region in France today).
In the 17th Century England, gingerbread was sold as a ‘digestive aid’ in monasteries, pharmacies and town square farmers’ markets, though it became more widely available in the next century.
European settlers brought gingerbread to the US where the recipe was altered slightly to include molasses (an inexpensive sweetener when compared to refined sugar). The first printed recipe for soft American style gingerbread, among others, was in 1796 edition of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons.
At present, gingerbread is enjoyed around the world in one form or another, such as the bread like pain d’épices in France, Dutch peperkoek, German Lebkuchen, or ancient Toruń from Poland.
Below are the typical ingredients for making easy Gingerbread Cookies and royal icing. Though there are recipes that do not contain molasses, I prefer the taste and texture of this classic American gingerbread recipe.
- Brown Sugar
- Granulated Sugar
- Baking Powder
- Confectioner’s Sugar (or powdered sugar)
As most of these ingredients are widely available and common baking ingredients, they really need no introduction. As always I recommend unsalted butter, along with a pinch of salt in order to have some control over the salt level in most recipes. The butter, along with the egg should be at room temperature for best results.
As always, I recommend upgrading your baking spices at least every two years and a good time to do that is before you start holiday baking. Fresh spices ensure the tastiest result!
Molasses is the sticky, sweet and slightly bitter syrup leftover from refined sugar processing. You can use either ‘Fancy’ Molasses or ‘Blackstrap’ Molasses for this recipe.
How to Make Easy Gingerbread Cookies
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream the butter and sugars together in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Make sure they are light and fluffy before moving on. With the motor running on medium speed, add the egg, vanilla, and molasses.
Next, combine the dry ingredients. Place a sieve or sifter over the bowl of wet ingredients and add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, clove powder, salt) in the sieve/sifter.
Sift dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix them together well without overworking the dough. Divide dough in half, cover, and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Lay a sheet of parchment paper on the kitchen counter and place half of the dough in the middle. Cover it with another sheet of parchment paper.
Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the dough in between the two layers until it is a uniform 1/4 inch thick. Carefully remove the top layer of parchment paper.
Lightly flour the cookie cutters and use them to cut out shapes, fitting them together tightly like a puzzle. Remove the excess dough and set aside. Slide the parchment paper with cookies directly to a baking sheet.
Bake at 350ºF degrees for 8-10 minutes. While the cookies are baking, roll out the other half of the dough and cut out the cookies as directed.
During baking, the cookies should puff up slightly but still hold their shape. When they are done baking, they should have a slight change in colour but not be too dark. Allow the cookies to cool slightly, then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.
Gather leftover dough into a ball and let rest in refrigerator another 15 minutes then roll, cut, and bake as directed.
How to Make Royal Icing
Though it sounds fancy, royal icing is just a combination of confectioner’s sugar and water, or sometimes milk. It only takes a little amount of added liquid to get the right consistency for piping, so always start slow and add small amounts of water or milk, as needed.
You can use the royal icing to pipe simple features on the gingerbread or use it as an edible glue to stick on candy or sprinkles. Feel free to add a tiny bit of gel food colouring to make royal icing in multiple colours.
To decorate the cookies: Place royal icing in a piping bag and snip off a very tiny part of the corner. Push out any excess air and twist the open end to seal. Lightly squeeze the bag as you pipe the icing designs onto the cooled cookies.
How to Store and Freeze Gingerbread Cookies
Undecorated gingerbread cookies freeze well in an airtight container for up to three months. This means you can get a jump on holiday baking and decorate them just before serving.
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