It wouldn't surprise me if these gingerbread men turn into the real stars of your Christmas celebration! This recipe makes the perfect cookies every time, nicely spiced with warm ginger, cinnamon, molasses and more. So why not make this timeless classic for the holiday season?I used to make my gingerbread the way my German grandmother taught me – labor-intense, with a difficult-to-handle dough and a high rate of failure. But once I had kids of my own who really just want to stick some eyes on their gingerbread man and don’t care that much about long-winded heritage recipes yet, I’ve switched to this classic American recipe. And now I like it even more than my old one!Note: I updated this recipe on 11/12/2019 to make it easier and better.
1tablespoonapple cider vinegar OR white wine vinegar
Gingerbread Spice Mix:
Make the cookie dough: Place the sugar & butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until combined (you can also do this in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, just be careful so you don't overmix the dough).Add the egg, molasses, vinegar and vanilla extract and beat on medium-low speed until fully combined.
Finally, combine the dry ingredients and the gingerbread spices in a medium mixing bowl. Add to the molasses mix and beat on low speed just until combined into a soft cookie dough.
Chill the dough: Cover the bowl and chill the cookie dough for at least 3 hours and up to overnight. If you chill it overnight, you may need to let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes so it's easier to roll.
Cut out cookies: Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the dough in 2 and roll each half to 1/4 of an inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out cookies and place them on lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Place similarly sized cookies on the same baking sheet!
Bake the cookies: Once you have filled a baking sheet, place it in the oven to bake. Medium-sized cookies take 8-10 minutes to bake. Large gingerbread men take 12-14 minutes to bake. Smaller cookies take 6-8 minutes to bake. They should spring back when you slightly touch their surface, but make sure to not overbake them or they'll turn out tough. Cool the baked cookies on a baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely before decorating.
Step by Step Photos and Baking Tips:
Creaming the butter and sugar together is a lot easier if you have very soft butter. Forgot to pull it out of the fridge? No worries, just rinse a bowl under hot water, then invert it and place it over the butter for a few minutes.Once you added the molasses, vanilla and egg, do not mix for longer than needed to fully combine the ingredients, or your cookies may turn out tough.If adding the dry ingredients is too much work for your mixer, please use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour by hand!! I've broken a cheaper mixer with cookie dough before.I prefer rolling the dough between two sheets of lightly floured baking parchment to keep my counters somewhat clean. And make sure you don't roll the dough thinner than 1/4 inch thickness, or your gingerbread won't turn out as soft as it should.
Don't overmix the dough: Overmixing the egg can yield dough and dry cookies, so go easy - only mix until everything is incorporated.The same goes for the flour, too: If you mix too much, the gluten will start developing, yielding tough cookies again. Only mix until no more streaks of dry flour are visible.Bake the same sizes of cookies together: If you make different sized cookies (for example some gingerbread men, some candy canes and some hearts) and they’re all different sizes, bake them in separate batches. Otherwise some cookies will be overbaked and tough while others will stay too soft.Cookie yield: This recipe makes about 45-50 mid-sized cookies. It makes about 16 large gingerbread men.The recipe can be cut in half if you only want a small batch of cookies, but please note that there's one egg in the full recipe, so you're going to have to use half of a beaten egg to make a half batch.
I usually just use a thick powdered sugar icing on these. I combine 2 cups powdered sugar with 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, water or half-and-half.Then I use a squeeze bottle to decorate the cookies with the icing (I just make more if we run out; but I start with a smaller amount in case we get tired of decorating). Feel free to use your favorite royal icing instead!My kids enjoy sticking little sprinkles and things into the cookies instead.Make sure the cookies are completely cooled before adding any icing or decorations. Let the cookies stand uncovered at room temperature overnight to let the icing set before packing them up.And PS: About the decorating... It's really not one of my biggest skillsets. I majorly lack the patience for it, too. I just whip up a powdered sugar icing (or use store-bought royal icing, there I said it) and try to draw something remotely adorable on the cookies.If you feel the same way and usually try to skip the decorating part, I BEG you to get over yourself and sit down to decorate cookies with your kids. They will love this sweet memory so much, even if your gingerbread man looks more like a gingerbread monster.My 3 year old’s words, not mine.
How to store the gingerbread cookies:
Store the cooled gingrbread cookies in an airtight container on the coutner for 1-2 weeks (they taste best within the first few days though). Decorated cookies last a little less in my experience.
To freeze the cookie dough: Wrap the finished gingerbread cookie dough tightly in plastic wrap, then label with the name and use-by date and freeze for up to 3 months.When ready to bake, thaw the dough overnight in the fridge (I recommend placing it on a plate to catch any water drips). Then roll, cut and bake as directed in the recipe.To freeze the baked cookies: Freeze baked cookies before decorating them! Cool the cookies completely, then stack them in freezer-friendly containers, separating each layer with a piece of wax paper. Cover tightly with the lid, then label with the name and use-by date and freeze for up to 3 months.To defrost, take out as many cookies as you need and thaw them on a wire rack on the counter for a couple of hours.