These Soft Gingerbread Cookies transported me from a take ’em or leave ’em attitude to a complete convert on loving gingerbread cookies.
This story isn’t quite like my Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread story, where an accomplished baker bestowed upon me treats that would make that orange chocolate flavor combo a new favorite…no, that didn’t happen here.
Nope…what happened here is that I had children. And as they got old enough to enjoy the whole cookie baking and decorating process, I started to feel like we were missing out on the whole gingerbread cookie thing. We already had established our cookie decorating at Halloween with our Peanut Butter Cut Out Cookies. And, we decorated all kinds of other types of cookies, but no gingerbread.
You already know from my Spiced Shortbread post that my husband is not a fan of gingerbread, so I knew I was going to have to go it alone on this one. I didn’t rush to start making them. It was just a thought that I had in the back of my mind; I wanted to find a gingerbread cookie that we could love. So, a bunch of years ago, I started researching and testing different recipes. What did I want in a gingerbread cookie?
I knew I wanted it to be soft but firm. I’m definitely more of a soft and chewy cookie person than a crunchy cookie person, though it really depends on the cookie. There are crispy cookies that I adore, but for this one, I wanted it to be soft. And, not soft in a cakey way, simply soft enough to sink your teeth into, but firm enough to hold up to decorating and storing. I think there’s something about a softer spice cookie that delivers the flavor differently to your palate.
As far as the spices…I wanted them to be assertive enough to really scream gingerbread, but I didn’t want anything so spicy that my kids would have an issue with the heat. And for the overall flavor? I wanted a cookie that you didn’t just eat because it was there to try. I wanted this to be a cookie that you would eat and say, “Hmmm, I think I could go for another one!”
I researched and tested recipes that weren’t what I was looking for…then finally landed on one from Baking Bites that sounded, from all of the author’s descriptions, like one that would work for us. I made it. I loved it. And I haven’t searched for another since then.
Part of the secret is the mix of spices. I always try to use good quality spices. It makes such a difference! For gingerbread, I always use Pensey’s China Powdered Ginger #1. It has made a real difference in the flavor of my gingerbread. In any case, this recipe has a good ratio of spices to get the flavor I look for in gingerbread. I also take the ground pepper option…just a pinch of freshly ground pepper gives it a nice kick. Just make sure you’re grounding it finely so that you don’t end up with big flakes of pepper in your cookies.
Coffee is another winning ingredient in this cookie. (I use it in my Whole Wheat Gingerbread Pancakes as well.) You don’t taste the coffee, really…I know because I can always taste the coffee. Instead, it adds depth to the overall flavor of the cookie. The original recipe calls for brewed coffee, but I always have espresso powder on hand so I added that to the dry ingredients and then just added water to the wet. Either way is fine.
Finally, there’s no egg in this recipe. They don’t bake up super puffy and they have a bit of a crackly surface. The absence of eggs in this recipe is what separates these cookies from many others and helps them to achieve the texture that I was looking for. It’s also one less step for me to crack eggs and then wash my hands again. (I’m a serial hand washer while baking or cooking, so this is bonus win for me.) #foodsafety
When you mix it up, you’ll find that it becomes a very soft cookie dough, too soft to roll out. Which means that it will need to chill for a few hours. As long as I plan ahead, I never mind that chilling step. For this dough, that means you can work on other things while it is chilling. And if you’re baking up a bunch of other cookies, this one can hang out in the fridge until your oven is free. Or maybe you want to mix it up one day and roll, cut and bake it the next. It’s all good. They’re kind of like my Slice and Bake Cheesecake Cookies; you can park them in the fridge and go on about your day.
Once the dough is firm, you’ll be able to roll it out without issue. It’s a pretty easy dough to work with as long as you flour your surface and your cookie cutters. A good tip is to pick your dough up and turn it as you’re rolling it to insure that it isn’t sticking to your rolling surface. You can always sprinkle a little flour underneath as you turn it if you are having any sticking issues. Your dough should be movable on the counter before you start cutting. If it’s not, then your shapes will get ruined as you try to scrape the cut cookies off of your surface. So, keep it easy breezy and keep that dough free from sticking to the counter in the first place. (Don’t forget to brush off any excess flour from the cookies before you bake them.)
The cookies hold their shape nicely while baking, and then it’s time to decorate! I decorated these simply with icing for the post, but you can use other sprinkles, colored sugars or you can tint your icing. Decorate them however you want to…for this post, I focused on the flavor. I’ve tried lemon icing, which was good, but I wanted to go in a different citrus direction.
I used orange juice in the icing and I think it complements the spices beautifully. I didn’t use the zest of the orange, though, as I did with the Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread. You can’t have zest clogging up your piping efforts and I didn’t want that strong of an orange flavor, just a nice mellow orange flavored icing. Of course, you can use fresh lemon juice, if you’d prefer or even make a plain icing if that’s your “thing.”
My “thing” is these Soft Gingerbread Cookies. In the take ’em or leave ’em conversation, they are definitely a “take ’em!” The warm spices are perfectly festive for the holiday season, especially now that the arctic winds are coming our way. Brrrr!
Although chilly weather doesn’t seem to bother these two little cookies at all ;)