I am well aware that nobody is in the mood for a cookie recipe now that Christmas is officially over and diet season has begun. I'm also pretty burnt out from all the Christmas baking BUT I wanted to be sure to record and post this perfect recipe for thick and chewy gingerbread men. Gingerbread is definitely the favorite Christmas cookie in this household. My kids love everything ginger and molasses flavor, something I find so bizarre because when I was younger I absolutely detested molasses. I have since developed a fondness for it, but only in the last ten years. Every Christmas, we have tested a different recipe for gingerbread and, while pleased with the results overall, I had yet to find a truly outstanding one for gingerbread cutouts. My search is now over. This recipe produces a dough that has a perfect balance of molasses and spice, is easy to roll out, and bakes into a cookie that is sturdy but not a bit crispy. Some gingerbread is so crunchy that I feel as if I'm going to chip a tooth while taking a bite. Not the case with these cookies.
I had a blast piping icing to make some cute gingerbread men and women. I also saw an idea in a magazine for turning the gingerbread men shapes upside down and decorating them to look like Rudolph. The kids loved this idea as evidenced by the fact that the reindeer cookies were the first to disappear (within the first 48 hours after baking!). Using a batch of royal icing, pipe whatever designs you like to make the feet of the gingerbread men look like antlers. Then, attach candy eyes and a gumdrop (for the large reindeer) or a red m&m (for the small reindeer) for the nose. Voila! Easiest cookie decorating ever.
These cookies will definitely be added to our permanent Christmas baking schedule!
Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
from Baking Illustrated
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
¾ cup molasses
2 tablespoons milk
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds. (Alternatively, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1½ minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.)
Scrape dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll ¼-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into gingerbread people or round cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-line cookie sheets with a wide metal spatula, spacing them ¾-inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheet from front to back halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.
Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.
Once cookies are cool, decorate with royal icing, if desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.