Gingerbread men are the quintessential Christmas cookie. Their subtle spicy flavor is reminiscent of the holiday season. And if you are an avid cookie maker you know that they don’t just need to be– men.
This year I changed the recipe from my usual Martha Stewart to Joy of Baking. The switch was inspired by my overindulgence of Martha Stewart recipes. Gingerbread cookies generally have the same recipe with a change in amount of spices, addition or subtraction of nutmeg and pepper (yes, ground pepper!), and baking powder.
Now, if you can make gingerbread men from a box, yes, that red box that appears to be in every pantry, then you can make these from scratch with no hassle. There are spices that may not be staples for you, but go and buy them. They can perk up lots of other baked goods or savory dishes as well. You’ll also need molasses. This gives the cookies their chewiness and distinct flavor. This is real flavor you can’t get from a box. So do it, buy the ingredients and make the cookies. You won’t be sorry.
3 cups all-purpose flour (get the good stuff, it’s worth it)
1/4 teaspoons salt (kosher is also worth it)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (or nuke it for about 10 seconds, don’t let it melt though)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup (160 ml) unsulphured molasses (To prevent molasses from sticking to the measuring cup, first spray the cup with a non stick vegetable spray.)
In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.
Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. Do not skip this step. The dough will be too warm immediately after mixing– it needs to chill both for a good rolling temperature as well as to let the flavors meld.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside while you roll out the dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Use a floured gingerbread cutter to cut out the cookies. With a spatula lift the cut out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1 inch apart.
Bake for about 8 – 12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Small ones will take about 8 minutes, larger cookies will take about 12 minutes. I always check after 6 minutes. They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown. Don’t let them get dark unless you like hard cookies.
Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minutes. When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
If desired, you can press raisins, currants, or candies into the dough for eyes and buttons while the cookies are still warm. Otherwise, confectioners frosting can be used to decorate the cookies. You can also use the icing as a glue to attach candies, raisins, and sprinkles.
Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking