Growing up, I never liked gingerbread. It was often hard and way too sweet. A few years ago in the midst of a very busy time in school I had a massive gingerbread craving. So like any student a night before a big review, I plotted my work early and went home and made these cookies. Boy was I glad I did. These cookies were a crowd pleaser (especially since I made them with my dinosaur cookie cutters) but also because they were soft and oh so chewy.
Like carrot cake, these cookies benefit from lots of fresh spices so feel free to round your spice measurements making them even more dark and spicy! Of course, continuing the tropical Christmas theme these gingerbread are clad in speedos with snowy palm trees to boot. So festive!
Merry everything y'all! Three days until Christmas, plenty of time to fill all empty cookie plates with these gingerbread. You won't regret it.
Source: America's Test Kitchen
Makes 24-30 Cookies
Cooling the dough properly is essential to this recipe because it is very sticky. Dipping the cookie cutters in a small mound of flour helps the cutters cut cleanly. These cookies do tend to spread, so bake two sheets at a time and rotate halfway through baking. This ensures that the cookies do not become misshapen during baking. If you only have one sheet ready to bake at a time, still arrange your oven racks into thirds and place an empty baking sheet in place of the second baking sheet. Place the sheet with the cut cookies on the top rack (for initial oven spring) and rotate both sheets halfway through. The empty sheet helps to shield the cookies during the remainder of the baking time.
3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
Gel food coloring
1/4 cup water+
- In a food processor, process the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process until the mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With the machine running, gradually add the molasses and milk; process until the dough is evenly moistened and forms a soft mass, about 10 seconds.
- Scrape the dough onto a work surface; divide it in half. Working with one portion at a time, roll the dough 1/4 inch thick between 2 large sheets of parchment paper. If dough is too sticky to work, chill in refrigerator for half an hour before rolling. Leaving the dough sandwiched between the parchment layers, stack on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. At this point the rolled dough can be wrapped and chilled in the freezer indefinitely until ready to bake.
- Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
- Remove 1 dough sheet from the freezer; place on the work surface. Peel off the top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip the dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut the dough into 5-inch gingerbread people or 3-inch gingerbread cookies, transferring shapes to prepared baking sheets with a wide metal spatula, spacing them 3/4 inch apart; set the scraps aside. Repeat with the remaining dough until baking sheets are full. Bake the cookies until set in the centers and the dough barely retains and imprint when touches very gently with a fingertip, 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Do not over bake. Cool the cookies on the sheets 5 minutes, then remove the cookies with a wide metal spatula to a wire rack; cool to room temperature.
- Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and bake.
- Place powdered sugar and meringue powder in medium bowl. Add vanilla extract and water. Mix ingredients until stiff. Add more water as needed to make icing runnier. Color as needed with gel food coloring. Fill piping bag with small round piping tip.