Monday, December 6, 2010

My Best Cookies: Gingerbread

This one is for Tara
Gingerbread cookies are a heart-warming favorite. They are not too sweet, charming to look at and irresistible!
My cookbook says:
 "Queen Elizabeth I of England is credited with creating gingerbread people when she ordered cakes spiced with ginger to be baked in the shapes of her friends."
 I wonder if she bit off their heads to terrify them into compliance.

Never double this recipe. If you do, you will be most horribly sorry. (It spills out of the mixer.)

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening (crisco) Do NOT use butter.
2/3 cup cold water
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup Karo syrup (light if you want medium colored cookies, dark if you want dark cookies)
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 Tablespoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix the sugar, shortening, molasses and water. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients.
Put the dough in a zip lock bag or cover it in the bowl with plastic wrap. Chill 1- 2 hours.  Some people don't chill it at all. I find it helps roll it out if you chill it a little. If pressed for time, you can chill it over night or for a few days, but then when you take it out of the refrigerator, it is very hard and you have to let it warm up on the counter for a while before you can even make a dent in it.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet lightly or use parchment paper.
Sprinkle flour over your counter top and rub it onto your rolling pin.

Select cookie cutters (the fun part!) I love to make gingerbread snowflakes. I don't know why this is, but I love them. I also like gingerbread people of all sizes, gingerbread stars and sometimes houses and leaves. Every Christmas I also make gingerbread scottie dogs and Christmas trees.

Roll the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick or maybe a bit less. The first rolling is the most difficult. Don't give up! The dough gets easier to handle as you work it.
When the dough is rolled, dip the cookie cutter into the flour and place it on the dough toward the edge. Press it in and then wiggle it a couple times. My grandson says, "press, wiggle, wiggle" to describe the method.
If you squeeze the cookie cutter just ever so slightly, you can pick up the cut cookie in the cutter and lift it to the nearby cookie sheet. Place the cookie on there, releasing the pressure you're applying and it should drop onto the cookie sheet.
Dip the cutter in flour whenever it seems to be sticking a bit.
Tip #1: If you cut the cookies around the edge first (though I realize that the temptation is to cut right in the middle), you end up rolling out less.
Tip #2: Get a few cookies sheets ready and put like-sized cookies on each sheet. That way they bake at the same rate and you don't burn the little ones while the big ones get done.
Tip #3: If the dough is too crumbly, roll it out again. If that doesn't work, put it back in the mixer and add a teaspoon of water and mix again.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until no indentation remains when the cookie is touched lightly in the middle. Don't let the edges get brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

To finish: I decorate mine with a very thin glaze of confectioner's sugar, rice milk and vanilla.  I like the cookies to look like they have an ice glaze on them (especially the gingerbread snowflakes). While the glaze is wet, I sprinkle a mixture of sugars on top to complete the snowy look ( sparkly sugar and Swedish pearl sugar).
For the dogs, I sometimes put an icing bow at the neck and for the people, I like simple white features and buttons down the front.


  1. This is exactly what I was looking for!!!! A Gingerbread recipe that has been tested and proven delicious! Thank you!!!!

  2. I am making these right now! Thank you, thank you!