Gingerbread Cookies – Not Just for the Holidays

There is something warm and comforting about the smell of gingerbread. For many, its scent brings back fond memories of childhood innocence and festive holidays. For me, this rich and spicy scent is like being wrapped in a warm hug. I love how wonderful my kitchen and home smell when these cookies are baking in the oven.

Until two months ago, I had never tried baking gingerbread cookies. I did not think they would be as easy to make as they are. When I started to think about what I would bake for the holidays last year, I decided to try my hand at gingerbread cookies. I looked at a number of recipes for inspiration and settled on one by the doyenne of all things good – Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread People.

Since Christmas, I have had the opportunity to continue refining this recipe on a number of occasions – these cookies have become my parents’ favourite baked treat, and they regularly request a fresh batch. I have tinkered with the temperature and timing since I prefer to bake one cookie sheet at a time. What follows is my adaptation of Martha’s trusted recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

I like to start my baking by collecting all of the ingredients, measuring them out and getting my tools ready. The French call it mise en place – to set in place. I call it being efficient because I’m not left to scramble for one ingredient or the other. Also, I’ll know in advance if I’m running too low on a particular ingredient to finish a recipe.

While most people consider mise en place to have greatest application in a culinary setting, it can also be applied in everyday life. Consider this article by Dan Charnas. If you organize your desk, medicine cabinet or closet in such a way that you know where to reach for something without looking for it, you are already practising mise en place.

This is what my kitchen counter looked like before I started:

All of the ingredients pre-measured and in individual bowls.

Note: ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice, baking soda and salt already combined into one bowl.

  1. Cream the butter with brown sugar, using an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Creaming the butter with brown sugar

  1. Add egg and mix well.

Add the egg and mix well

  1. Mix in molasses, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, baking soda and salt.

Incorporate SpicesIncorporate molasses into the batter

  1. Reduce speed to low and add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing until it is fully incorporated.

Incorporate flour into the batter

  1. Divide dough into four portions. Shape into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. (You can also leave it in the fridge overnight, or for up to 3 days. Alternatively, the dough can be frozen for up to one month; thaw before using.)

Portioned dough, wrapped for the fridge

  1. Let the dough soften slightly before rolling it out. Depending on the warmth of your kitchen, remove the dough from the fridge about an hour before you plan to use it.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the middle of the oven.
  1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 disk of dough to a thickness of 1/8 inches. Using your favourite cookie cutters, cut out cookies.

Cutting out the cookies

  1. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, making sure to space the cookies 1-inch apart.  (Since it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, I’m also using heart-shaped cookie cutters.)

Lay the cookies onto parchment-lined baking sheet

  1. Roll out any scraps and incorporate additional disks as needed. (Dough remnants can be used to add details on individual cookies.)
  1. Bake cookies 1 sheet at a time. If you prefer softer, chewier cookies, bake for 9-10 minutes. For crispier cookies, bake for 12-13 minutes. Cookies are done if firm when touched.
  1. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to finish cooling. Decorate cookies if desired once they are completely cooled.

Freshly baked cookies, ready for decorating or eating

To download a printable version of this recipe, click here.

Makes 50 heart-shaped cookies, or approximately 24 gingerbread adults.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Be careful who you share these cookies with, or the next time your parents call, they might not be calling to check on you but to ask for another batch of them.

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