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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 ;)
Soft Gingerbread Cookies
For the cookies:
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg I always use freshly ground
- pinch of finely ground black pepper optional
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses I use Grandma's Molasses
- 1/4 cup brewed coffee room temperature (or 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder and 1/4 cup water)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the icing:
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons orange juice
Make cookies. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients from the flour through the black pepper. If you are using espresso powder instead of coffee, add the espresso powder in with the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the sugar, molasses and coffee (or water if you used the espresso powder) and vanilla.
Gradually add the flour/spice mixture to the and mix until smooth. The dough will be very soft. Divide into three pieces, shape into balls and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours until the dough is firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Working with one ball of dough at a time, (leave the others in the refrigerator until you're ready for them.) On a floured surface, roll dough to just under 1/4" thick. Use floured cookie cutters to cut dough into shapes. I used 3" cookie cutters.
Place cookies on parchment lined baking sheets, brushing off any excess flour and bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookies are firmly set around the edges. *See notes for baking in convection oven.
Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Make icing. Whisk together confectioner's sugar and enough orange juice to make a nice piping consistency. Start with a little liquid and just add and stir until you've reached a thick but pipeable consistency. You don't want it too liquidy or your designs will not hold their shape. Nor do you want it too thick to pipe. I used a small round piping tip, but you could also use a heavy weight zip top plastic bag (like a freezer bag) and cut a small piece off the corner.
Once you've decorated your cookies, allow the icing to fully set before storing. Store in an airtight container, layered with wax paper for 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
*I used my convection oven to bake these. I converted the temperature down to 350 degrees F. and baked for 7-8 minutes. The recipe states the baking directions for a regular oven.
*For cookies that release easily after cutting, make sure you are dipping your cookie cutters into flour before each cut and remember to pick up and turn your dough as you're rolling it, insuring that it's free from sticking to the surface. You can always sprinkle a little extra flour underneath it as you turn it if it seems to be sticking. This will insure that your cut outs will lift easily off the surface.
*If you prefer crisper cookies, roll the dough thinner, more like 1/8" and bake as directed. I've never made them thinner so I don't have personal experience. The original author states that they'll be crispy, but not hard.
*For your icing, you can use orange juice as I have, or you could use lemon juice for a different flavor. If you want your icing to not have any extra flavor, just substitute water for the juice. I don't add vanilla to the icing so that the icing can stay a brighter white. Recipe adapted from Baking Bites