Big Soft Ginger Cookies

To me, it’s not Christmas without gingerbread. It’s probably my favorite holiday cookie. Where people might say sugar, I say gingerbread.

It’s funny because I didn’t grow up with having gingerbread like that, especially for the holidays. Like I mentioned last year, the only time I had anything that even remotely resembled gingerbread was through a famous lady named Little Debbie. Thankfully, not anymore. I feel like though, in this day and age, if I ate one of her gingerbread men I’d probably get the worst headache ever. Processed sugar does that to me sometimes.

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These past couple of years, I’ve made it a point to have a gingerbread something for the holidays. My folks, as usual, are meh about them so my sister and I get to eat most, if not all of the cookies. When I first started baking on theme things, and gingerbread was on the list, I started with this recipe. Allrecipes used to be my holy grail of recipes, and I sometimes go back there for old faves. I even have this very same recipe printed out on an index card, in a feeble attempt at a recipe box! Let me just say, formatting that on Word was a nightmare.

This year, in case you haven’t noticed, the cookie recipes I’ve posted have all been no fuss drop cookies. I swear it was unintentional. I realized this when I looked at my cookie wish list on my whiteboard the other day. I was deciding what to make next when I mentally screamed “WAIT A MINUTE! How come I don’t have cut outs?” I think my subconscious did me a favor by not choosing cut outs. Thanks, brain.

Since these are not cut outs, they are super easy to make. There’s just three things I’d like to point out, though. The original recipe says to use margarine. I’m an all butter household now, and there’s no turning back. Why use margarine when there’s butter available? Unless you have like, dairy problems or something, use the butter. The second thing is, swap out half the sugar for brown sugar. I didn’t this time, because I forgot, but please do. There are molasses in these cookies already but brown sugar is awesome in these sort of things. Dark brown sugar if you can, although either works fine. The last thing I’d note is to refrigerate the dough a little bit. It’s super duper soft, which can be a real pain when trying to shape into uniform balls to dip in sugar before baking. Let them chill out for half an hour or so, then thank yourself for not making cut outs.

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Speaking of sugar, I guess I have one more thing to note. These cookies are rolled in sugar before baking, because why not add a little somethin’ somethin’ extra to these? Well, I upped the ante this year by rolling them in raw sugar. This was the best idea I had since deciding to add twice the amount of chocolate chips in a PB cookie. The crunch on these cookies because of this sugar is unbelievable. I was stunned, as I thought the dough would soak them up. It didn’t and they were fab.

Now, my cookies spread out quite a bit but that’s okay. I want to say that it was partly because of my new sheet pans and silicone liners, but I just don’t know. Either way, the cookies are as fantastic as I remember. Chewy, gingery, and molasses-y; just like a ginger cookie should be. The ginger is subtle but still present, which makes you just want to eat another one. The crunch from the raw sugar adds depth to an otherwise all chew cookie. Since mine spread out something fierce, it also didn’t look too bad if you ate one or five. They weren’t thick so it didn’t count!

Despite the fact that my ginger cookie this year was not in the shape of a little edible man, I still feel like I got in the quintessential holiday cookie. Good thing I can eat them all by myself!

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#CookieCraziness recipes thus far:

Big Soft Ginger Cookies – adapted from allrecipes

Makes 36 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (stick and a half) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar, for rolling

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, ground cinnamon and cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the room temperature butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Remember, you can go as long as you’d like. anywhere from 4-10 minutes; whatever it takes. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well. Then add the molasses and the water until fully incorporated.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mix, making sure it’s well incorporated before adding more. Fold in the last bit of dry ingredients, making sure to not overmix. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. You can definitely skip this step but a chill will make the soft dough a tad more workable.
  4. After chilling the dough, preheat your oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside. On a plate or in a small bowl, place the 1/4 cup of raw sugar.
  5. Scoop out the dough using a disher, tablespoon, or two small spoons, and place on the raw sugar. Roll the dough ball until completely covered and transfer to the prepped baking sheet.
  6. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for at least five minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used maybe more than 1/4 cup to roll the dough balls in. Depends on the size of the dough ball, I guess. 

Gingerbread Cookies and Rookie Mistakes

Gingerbread cookies are definitely my favorite Christmas cookie. I remember my mom used to buy us those boxes of Little Debbie Gingerbread Men when my sister and I were kids. They were my very favorite, besides the Oatmeal Creme Pies. The box used to bring about eight, and my sister and I would tear into those gingies within minutes. They were always pillowy soft, sweet, and just a tad spicy. After enjoying those cookies for years, I wanted to learn how to make them.

I started trying to bake cookies ever since I started baking. I always failed because of my fear of butter. Since allowing the sticks of golden, and sweet fat into my life, cookies have gotten easier. However, I made a lot of cookie rookie mistakes and learned some lessons along the way.

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Butter is of the utmost importance. Like I mentioned in my sugar cookies post, I didn’t use butter to bake because I was used to using vegetable oil spread, aka margarine, in my cakes. I learned the error of my ways soon enough. Butter is crucial for cookies to even happen. Unsalted unless specified in the recipe, please. If you can, use the best quality too, as it definitely makes a difference.

The refrigerator is your best friend. Ideally, dough is supposed to chill before rolling out, cutting and baking. All cookie recipes require this, except for some drop cookie recipes. The longer it chills, the easier it will be to handle. It will also give the ingredients a chance to develop a deeper, more delicious flavor. The freezer is also your new BFF if your dough softens on you. Dough that has gotten too soft can be popped in the freezer for a couple minutes to harden up for easier handling. It also helps to pop in your cutouts before baking, to ensure they keep their shape. I can’t tell you how much the freezer has saved me in a moment of cookie despair.

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Read the ENTIRE recipe before beginning. I feel embarrassed even typing this one out. This shouldn’t even be here, but sometimes we I forget. I chose Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Cookies recipe because, well it’s Martha. I only read through the ingredients because I needed to know how much molasses I was going to need. I made a quick run to the supermarket to replenish my stock, and then skimmed the recipe. If I had read the recipe in its entirety before beginning, I would not have needed to be saved by the freezer, and the process would’ve gone a lot smoother. Do as I say, folks and not as I do; it’s a timesaver.

Keep a ruler on standby. I try my hardest when I’m rolling out any sort of dough to stay consistent with thickness. I have issues every time but a ruler helps. Even with the assistance of a ruler, I sometimes end up with cookies that are too thin. Make sure that the dough is the same thickness all around.

Always have essential tools nearby. For cutouts, my essentials are: the cutters, a bowl of flour for dipping the cookie cutters, a rolling pin, a small spatula (offset works too), a bench scraper, a rubber spatula, parchment paper, plastic wrap, and the cookie sheets. I also keep a ceramic plate in the freezer on standby, in case I need to chill a hunk of dough between roll outs. I also have a rolling mat because I don’t have a clean, flat surface or counter to roll stuff on. Having all this stuff nearby helps because there is minimal movement and the cutout process will go by quicker.

With all these tips in mind, your cookie cutting process should go by a bit smoother. These gingies came out great, despite the bit of trouble I had with the dough. I played around with the recipe a bit, and got deliciously spicy cookies. It’s a subtle spice at first but the ginger kicks in towards the end, in the back of your throat. It’s a nice surprise that reminds you that you’re eating a gingerbread cookie. The cookies can be soft or crunchy, depending on how thick they’re rolled out. I also made a rather feeble attempt at a gingerbread house. It looks more like a tenement, to be completely honest. I’ll probably do more planning to produce a well structured house next year.

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Gingerbread Cookies – adapted from Martha Stewart

makes about 24-36 cookies, depending on cutout size

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling and dipping
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses and egg. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients; mix just until a dough forms. Place dough on floured plastic wrap; pat into an 8-inch square. Wrap well; chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time (rewrap and refrigerate other half), place dough on floured parchment or waxed paper; roll out 1/8 inch thick, turning, lifting, and flouring dough (and rolling pin) as needed. Freeze dough (on paper) until firm, about 20 minutes.
  3. Loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes, and transfer to baking sheets. Decorate with sugar or sprinkles, as desired.
  4. Bake until firm and edges just begin to darken, 10 to 18 minutes, depending on size. Cool completely on baking sheets before decorating with Royal Icing.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If you neglected to read the recipe in full, like I did, you can still make this dough workable. Pop it in the freezer for 10 minutes prior to rolling out. 
  • Keep plenty of flour on hand to flour the rolling surface, rolling pin, and cookie cutters. 
  • I only had extra large eggs on hand, so I beat the egg in a small bowl and removed about a tablespoon’s worth before incorporating into the batter. 
  • Don’t have dark brown sugar? Increase the molasses to about a 1/2 cup. Alternatively, you can make your own dark brown sugar by blending molasses into your light brown sugar or white sugar in a food processor. Add in the molasses in tablespoons, until it reaches the desired color.