Something about gingerbread screams Christmas. If you are looking to make gingerbread cookies or even a gingerbread house this year this classic gingerbread cookie recipe will hit the spot.
My kids love it when I make gingerbread cookies for them to dip in their tea or hot cocoa on cold winter days. It really seems to brighten things up and makes our house smell amazing.
Where are gingerbread cookies form
In the 11th century and crusaders are returning from the Middle East with all sorts of exotic spices. Among these treasures is ginger – a spice that quickly becomes the “it” thing in European kitchens. People are experimenting with it, putting it in everything from stews to sweets.
Now, let’s fast-forward a bit to Germany in the 15th century. That’s where the first recorded recipe for gingerbread appears. At this point, gingerbread wasn’t just a cookie – it was more like a spiced, honey-sweetened bread. Bakers were creating intricate shapes and designs, often shaped like saints or royalty. These weren’t your average cookies; they were works of art!
Over time, gingerbread became associated with festive occasions, especially around Christmas. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the idea of making gingerbread men – probably inspired by the shapes of the fancy gingerbread creations that were popular at the time.
And that, my friend, is how gingerbread cookies found their sweet spot in history – a journey from the Middle East, through medieval Europe, to becoming the beloved treat we enjoy during the holidays today.
How to get chewy gingerbread cookies
The secret to chewy gingerbread cookies lies in the ingredients and baking technique. Here’s a simple recipe and some tips to help you achieve that perfect chewiness.
Use Dark Brown Sugar: Dark brown sugar contains more molasses than light brown sugar, adding moisture and depth of flavor to your cookies.
Molasses Matters: Opt for a good-quality molasses. It not only provides the distinct flavor but also contributes to the chewiness. Look for unsulfured molasses for a milder taste.
Underbake Slightly: Keep a close eye on your cookies while baking. Take them out of the oven when the edges are set but the centers are still slightly soft. They will continue to firm up as they cool.
Chill the Dough: Chilling the dough for at least an hour (or overnight) helps solidify the fats in the dough, preventing the cookies from spreading too much and contributing to a chewier texture.
Avoid Overmixing: Mix the dough until just combined. Overmixing can lead to a tougher texture. Once you’ve added the dry ingredients, mix until there are no streaks of flour, and then stop.
Size Matters: Consider the size of your cookie dough balls. Smaller portions tend to yield chewier cookies. Use a cookie scoop for uniform sizes.
Parchment Paper: Use parchment paper on your baking sheets. This helps prevent the cookies from sticking and allows for easy removal, preserving their shape and texture.
Experiment with Flour: You can experiment with using a combination of all-purpose flour and cake flour. Cake flour has less protein, which can contribute to a softer, more tender texture.
Add Cornstarch: Some bakers add a small amount of cornstarch to the dry ingredients to create a more tender texture. Start with a tablespoon and see how you like the results.
Store with Bread: After baking, store your cookies in an airtight container with a slice of bread. The cookies will absorb moisture from the bread, helping them stay chewy longer.
What you need to make your own gingerbread cookies
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
How to make gingerbread cookies
Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg, molasses, and vanilla extract until well combined.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Don’t overmix; you want a tender cookie.
Cover the dough and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Chilled dough helps the cookies maintain their shape and texture during baking.
Scoop out portions of dough and roll them into balls. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving some space between each.
Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are set but the centers are still soft. Remember, they’ll continue to firm up as they cool.
Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Storing gingerbread cookies to keep them from drying out
Storing gingerbread cookies properly helps maintain their freshness and texture. Here are some tips on how to store gingerbread cookies:
Cool Completely Before Storing: Ensure your gingerbread cookies are completely cooled before storing them. If they’re still warm, they can create condensation in the storage container, making the cookies soft or even soggy.
Choose the Right Container: Store gingerbread cookies in an airtight container to prevent them from drying out. You can use a cookie tin, plastic container, or even a zip-top plastic bag. If you’re stacking the cookies, place sheets of parchment paper between the layers to prevent sticking.
Add a Slice of Bread: To maintain chewiness, consider placing a slice of bread in the container with your cookies. The bread will help retain moisture and prevent the cookies from becoming overly crisp. Just be sure to replace the bread slice if it becomes stale.
Avoid Mixing Flavors: When storing different types of cookies together, be mindful of flavors. Some cookies, like gingerbread, have strong and distinctive flavors that can transfer to other cookies if stored together. Separate flavors with parchment paper or store each type of cookie in its own container.
Store in a Cool, Dry Place: Keep the container of gingerbread cookies in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing them in direct sunlight or near heat sources, as this can cause them to become stale or lose their moisture.
Freeze for Long-Term Storage: If you want to store gingerbread cookies for an extended period, consider freezing them. Place the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then, transfer them to an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag. To thaw, simply leave them at room temperature for a few hours.
Separate Frosted Cookies: If your gingerbread cookies are frosted, layer them with wax paper or parchment paper to prevent the frosting from sticking to other cookies. Alternatively, you can individually wrap frosted cookies in plastic wrap before storing.
By following these storage tips, you can enjoy your gingerbread cookies for an extended period without compromising their flavor and texture.