Gingerbread Cookies

December 10, 2010

Do you remember the story of “The Gingerbread Man”? It’s pretty messed up: you have this bratty man-shaped cookie who runs away from an old couple and various farm animals, only to eventually be outwitted and eaten by a murderous fox. I can’t quite figure out why these cookies are associated with the holiday season (other than the fact that they’re made with seasonal spices), but they’re fun to make and require less effort than you’d think.

The ingredient list on this recipe looks long, but it’s mostly a bunch of spices. Once you measure them out, the cookies come together pretty quickly.

Molasses is an ingredient that I don’t use very much, but it isn’t terribly expensive and it has a long shelf life. I used a jar that I bought three years ago and according to the expiration stamp, it’s good for another two years. That’s actually kind of scary…I wonder what’s in this stuff.

You can use a cookie cutter of any shape, but I had to go with the classic man/boy. 

Don’t burn your men! They bake very quickly. The thinner they are, the faster they’ll cook and the longer you leave them in the oven, the crispier they’ll get. So if you prefer a soft cookie, don’t roll them too thin and cook them for just a few minutes.

Some of my gingerbread men ended up being a little creepy looking. I think that’s appropriate, given their story. It wasn’t my intention for them to look sad or crazy (or like they were decorated by a five year old).

I put the happiest looking man in the foreground.

This was a solid gingerbread cookie recipe: nicely spiced and just sweet enough. Don’t let the long list of ingredients or directions intimidate you. After the dough was ready, I rolled, cut and baked them in no time (the dough needs to sit out at room temperature for two hours prior to rolling it out, which helps make it workable…just make sure to plan accordingly). You can prepare the dough up to four days in advance, but I would use it sooner rather than later.

Feeling festive? Make some gingerbread men (or women, or trees, or dogs, or whatever)! I picked this recipe because it was called “The Most Wonderful Gingerbread Men Cookies Recipe” (and the people of the internet seemed to like it). I did, too:

Gingerbread Cookies

adapted from

makes around 2 dozen 5-inch cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest  (optional)


In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended. Add molasses, vanilla, (and lemon zest if desired) and continue to mix until well blended. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they are fully incorporated.

Divide dough in half, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. If you don’t use it right away, you can store it for up to 4 days in the refrigerator (bring to room temperature before using).

Preheat oven to 375°

Place one portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out (1/4 inch thick) with a floured rolling pin. If your dough is sticky, you can sprinkle additional flour on your work surface. Space cookies 1 1/2-inches apart on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 6-10 minutes. The longer you bake them, the crispier they’ll be. Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow them to cool before decorating.

Royal Icing (for decorating)

1 egg white

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1.5 cups powdered sugar

Mix egg white with lemon juice, then add powdered sugar and mix together until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container if not used immediately and cover with plastic when not using (it dries out quickly). Use an icing tip/bag to decorate cookies. If you don’t have one, you can improvise by cutting a very small hole from the corner of a plastic baggie.

*Notes: You can easily double this icing recipe if you need to, but this made enough for my gingerbread men decorating needs. I didn’t add the lemon zest because I was in a rush, but I think it would be a good addition. I baked one batch for 8 or 9 minutes and they turned out too crispy for me. I thought they were perfect at 6 minutes, but I like a softer, chewier gingerbread cookie. It’s totally a preference thing. Watch them carefully, because it doesn’t take long to burn them. .

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