It’s been a rainy couple of days. We put off getting our Christmas tree because we didn’t want to end up with a puddle of water on the hardwood floors.
I don’t mind the milder weather, but I quickly tire of the gray skies.
Luckily, I had something of a pick-me-up stuck in a container on the counter.
These gingerbread cookies are soft and cakey and molassesy and generously spiced.
They come from one of my favorite baking books, Elizabeth Prueitt’s Tartine. And, unsurprisingly, they are some of the best gingerbread cookies I’ve ever made.
These cookies are thicker than most cut-out cookies, with a soft, cakey texture and plenty of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Prueitt adds black pepper for an extra kick, but I prefer these without it.
The dough gets made the night before. Right out the mixer, the dough is incredibly soft and sticky, but after it spends a night in the refrigerator, it firms up nicely and is a dream to work with.
It holds shapes well incredibly well and can handle being re-rolled several times without getting tough.
Prueitt calls for rolling these out with a decorative rolling pin or impressing shapes on them with springerle molds (this dough can definitely hold intricate patterns). I don’t have fancy molds like that, but I do have some cookie cutters, and I couldn’t resist making these into gingerbread
men people (Dan insists I refer to them with gender-neutral language).
The faces and buttons get drawn on with a lollipop stick after they’re cut out but before they go into the oven. I opted to go pretty traditional with the decorating, but if you’re making these with kids or feeling particularly creative, you could run wild with the designs.
After they come out of the oven, they get brushed with a simple powdered sugar and water glaze that settles into the impressions in the cookie to bring out the design. Which is a pretty nifty trick and just about the fastest way I’ve ever iced cut-out cookies.
The glaze also holds in the moisture to help keep these cookies soft and adds some sweetness to balance out the spiciness of the dough. These are well balanced and, for me, just about the perfect soft gingerbread cookie. I would be reaching for another one right now if there were any left.
Looking for more holiday cookie recipes? Try these citrus and spice orange cardamom snowflake cookies, striking and delicate white chocolate raspberry cookies, truffle-like salted chocolate rye cookies, coffee-kissed butterscotch-glazed espresso shortbread bars, sticky and nutty honey walnut bars, and tender, powdered sugar covered lime meltaways.
Soft Gingerbread Cookies
For the cookies:
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 525 grams
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder natural or Dutch-processed is fine
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (225 grams, 2 sticks)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup molasses not blackstrap (155 grams)
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
For the glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar (115 grams)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and/or a few drops of orange oil optional
- The day before you want to bake the cookies, make the dough. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and beat on medium speed for about one minute. With the mixer on medium, slowly add the sugar and mix until smooth, pale, and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until incorporated. Add the molasses and corn syrup and beat on medium speed until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing on low speed between additions until no streaks of dry flour remain.
- The dough will be very soft. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface and scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the plastic wrap and flatten the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- About 20 minutes before you want to bake the cookies, remove the dough from the refrigerator to soften a little.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle flour over the counter, unwrap the dough, and place it on the floured work surface. Sprinkle some flour over the dough and over your rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/3 inch thick. Cut the cookies out with your cookie cutters and place them on the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more cookies until you’ve used all of the dough (no need to chill in between).
- If desired, press designs into the cookies (such as faces and buttons) with a lollipop stick or toothpick.
- Bake the cookies until they’ve darkened a little around the edges but are still soft in the center, about 7-15 minutes depending on the size of your cookie cutters. (Mine took about 9 minutes.)
- While the cookies are baking, make the glaze. Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and water (and vanilla extract or orange oil, if using) until smooth.
- When the cookies are ready, remove them from the oven and place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze in an even layer over the tops of the cookies, being sure to cover the areas with designs well. Let the cookies cool completely until the glaze feels dry to the touch.