I said I was a cookie masochist, didn’t I? And it’s true. While browsing through Sur La Table the other day, I saw this snowflake cutter and suddenly, visions of crisp, snappy gingerbread cookies, intricately iced in winter white and dressed up with gleaming sprinkles filled my mind. It didn’t matter that I’d only just recovered from making these– I had to make them.
When I got home, cookie cutter in tow, I realized that I’d pretty much just signed up for an entire afternoon of cookie baking. I decided to make a project of it; I recruited my little sister to help measure ingredients, roll out the dough and cut out cookies, and before we knew it, the intoxicating smell of gingerbread filled the house.
These cookies came about on a total whim, but they’ve quickly become my absolute favorite. If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for anything spiced, and these are full of all the spices I love: ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. I added cardamom, allspice and black pepper too, and they’re nontraditional but subtle, spicy and warm additions which round out these cookies.
A problem people often have when making gingerbread dough is that it’s too sticky (thanks to its high molasses content) and thus, almost impossible to roll out and shape. This one is dry enough that rolling it out isn’t a problem, but not too dry that the dough cracks and splinters. A perfect balance.
As for the royal icing, it’s surprisingly easy to make; similar to a meringue which, essentially, it is. The difficulty is in the icing work- I don’t have the steadiest hands, or endless amounts of patience for fine, delicate designs, but I tried my best and I found that my lines got more precise with each cookie. Icing is definitely something that takes practice, but being that I’d never done it before (shocking, I know) I wasn’t too disappointed with how my designs turned out.
These cookies are my gingerbread be all and end all; they’re wonderful with tea, they keep for days and since the recipe makes lots, you can freeze some for later decorating.
I’d love to hear if you make these! Let me know in the comments below.
Yields: around 24 cookies
Why I love this recipe: full of traditional winter spices and a few nontraditional ones such as black pepper and cardamom, these easy to roll out cookies have a maddeningly addictive crisp, snappy texture and a lovely bite from the spices. Decorate with white royal icing and pretty sprinkles for a beautiful, seasonal cookie.
Notes: you can thin the icing out with water, depending on how thick you want it. Use the royal icing right away or store it in an airtight container because it will harden quickly when exposed to the air. It can be stored in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container.
For the cookies:
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1⁄2 cup molasses
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
For the royal icing:
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- silver + gold sprinkles, edible pearls
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices until well blended.
- In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure everything is fully incorporated.
- Add the egg and whip on medium speed until well blended.
- Add molasses, vanilla and citrus zests and continue to mix until well blended.
- Gradually add in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.
- Divide dough in half, shape into disks and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.
- Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin.
- Roll dough to a scant 1/4-inch thick, rolling evenly in each direction and using additional flour to avoid sticking.
- Cut out cookies with snowflake cutter and transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing them an inch apart. Re-roll the dough scraps and repeat until all the dough is used. Repeat with the second dough disk.
- Bake 2 sheets at a time for 10-12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool while you make the icing.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until foamy.
- Switch to low speed and gradually sift the sugar into the egg whites until it’s completely incorporated. Then add the lemon juice and beat on high speed until the icing is very thick and forms stiff peaks, around 7 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer the icing to a piping bag and decorate the cookies as you like. Use sprinkles or other decorating elements if you wish.
- Transfer the cookies to a rack for the icing to harden, then serve.