My Favorite Gingerbread Men Recipe
Here is my favorite gingerbread men recipe! Soft in the centers, crisp on the edges, perfectly spiced, molasses and brown sugar-sweetened holiday goodness.
So did you do any shopping on cyber monday yesterday?! I did a little Christmas shopping for Kevin but won’t go into too much detail in the off chance he is reading this. (He doesn’t read this.) Also got presents for my sisters and MAYBE another Christmas ornament for… my dog. What? It was on sale.
So anyway! Welcome to day 2 of my cookie palooza. A huge party filled with butter, sprinkles, melted chocolate on our sleeves, and flour all over our faces. Is that just me? Marathon cookie baking is soooo glamorous in my kitchen.
Yesterday I shared a classic holiday cookie and I decided to repeat the traditional trend today as well. Whenever I think of Christmas cookies, gingerbread men come to mind first. Well, after these of course! It’s something about them. Their spice. Their molasses flavor. Their smiles. Their charm! (Aren’t they charming looking?? Seriously look at them!) Gingerbread cookies, you have my heart. And stomach.
I’ve never shared a gingerbread men cookie recipe on my blog before. The truth is, I haven’t been able to find “the one” I’m proud of to post on my blog. I’ve tried them for the past few years and, while each batch is certainly tasty, I’m always left disappointed in the flavor and texture scene. So, I made it a point this year– well, this past month– to really work on a perfect gingerbread men cookie recipe. Or at least one that is perfect in my eyes and on my tastebuds! You’ll love these too.
Gingerbread men cookie recipes all start the same. There’s a lot of flour so the cookies can keep their shape. There’s molasses and spice for flavor, egg(s), butter, and sugar. The amounts and kinds all vary between recipes, but the recipe I absolutely adore is based off my mom’s recipe. To her recipe, I add a little more molasses and increase the amount of spice favors (like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice). I like a gingerbread cookies with A LOT of flavor, which shouldn’t surprise you. Because of the added sticky sweetener (molasses), I add a bit more flour to help soak it all up. I also use brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar in my gingerbread men recipe. This is for extra flavor. I always use brown sugar when its flavor is appropriate! Again, I’m sure you know this by now!
Let’s walk through the recipe real quick so you don’t get confused.
The dough is a little sticky once it’s all beaten together in your mixing bowl. It absolutely MUST be chilled. There is no way around this crucial step, so make sure you give yourself enough time in the kitchen. I chill my gingerbread men cookie dough overnight in the refrigerator but 3 hours is enough. It’s a long time, I know, but you want your cookie dough firm and manageable. You also want it to keep its shape when the cookies are baking– and you won’t get that unless you have chilled, solid dough.
It’s easiest to wrap the dough in plastic wrap before chilling. Scoop out 1/2 of the prepared cookie dough, plop it onto a long sheet of plastic wrap, wrap it up, and flatten it out into a disc. Repeat with the other 1/2 of dough. Then chill. See that photo above? That’s what you’re doing, but you’ll have 2 discs. Why are you doing this? It’s easier to roll out the chilled cookie dough when it is in a disc shape. Also, the cookie dough chills faster when there is less volume. And it’s just easier to work with smaller portions when rolling/shaping!
After chilling, roll out the chilled cookie dough discs until about 1/4-inch thick. Don’t be afraid to flour your hands, rolling pin, work surface, and everything in the world. By that, I mean: the cookie dough can become sticky as you work. So, don’t be scared to add more flour to the work surface.
More flour is ok.
The flour spots on top of your shaped cookie dough men will bake off.
Place the cut-out cookies onto a lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart. The cookies won’t really spread, but you want to make sure they have enough room to breathe. They are gingerbread men, after all.
The cookies only take about 9-10 minutes in the oven, which produces a soft cookie with slightly crisp edges. If your cookie cutter is much smaller than 4 inches, your cookies will be done in about 8 minutes. If you’re baking XXL gingerbread men, your cookies might take closer to 12 minutes.
Now, decorate your little heart out. We’re talking smiles, eyes, bow-ties, buttons, squiggles, whatever your gingerbread men cookie loving heart desires. This is when it’s really fun to have a friend or little baker in the kitchen with you. I use my basic and simple decorating icing, but you can use your favorite royal icing.
Tint the icing with a couple drops of food coloring to spice things up, too!
It’s difficult not to love this recipe! That’s why it’s quickly become my favorite gingerbread men recipe. The dough comes together easily, the flavor is spot on- lots of molasses, ginger, cinnamon, all-spice, and cloves- the edges are slightly crisp, the centers are soft and chewy, and they’re so easy to decorate. Happy cookie making!
PS: I encourage you to read through the recipe before beginning. And don’t be overwhelmed by all the steps, I’m just very thorough.
My Favorite Gingerbread Men Recipe
Make sure you chill the cookie dough discs for a minimum of 3 hours. I played around with the spices a lot and really loved the flavor of these cookies when using a full Tablespoon each of ground ginger and ground cinnamon.
- 10 Tablespoons (2/3 cup; 145g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup (200g) unsulphured molasses (I use Grandma's Molasses brand)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 and 1/2 cups (437g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon ground ginger (yes, 1 full Tablespoon!)
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- Easy royal icing
- In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat on medium high speed until combined and creamy-looking. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Next, beat in egg and vanilla on high speed for 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. The butter may separate; that's ok.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be quite thick and slightly sticky. Divide dough in half and place each onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap each up tightly and pat down to create a disc shape. Please see photo and description above in my post. Chill discs for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. Chilling is mandatory for this cookie dough. I always chill mine overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside.
- Remove 1 disc of chilled cookie dough from the refrigerator. Generously flour a work surface, as well as your hands and the rolling pin. Don't be afraid to continually flour the work surface as needed- this dough can be sticky. Roll out disc until 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes. Place shapes 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Re-roll dough scraps until all the dough is shaped. Repeat with remaining disc of dough.
- Bake cookies for about 9-10 minutes. If your cookie cutters are smaller than 4 inches, bake for about 8 minutes. If your cookie cutters are larger than 4 inches, bake for about 11 minutes. My oven has hot spots and yours may too- so be sure to rotate the pan once during bake time.
- Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. Once completely cool, decorate as desired.
Make ahead tip: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. Baked and decorated (or not decorated) cookies freeze well - up to three months. Unbaked cookie dough discs (just the dough prepared through step 2) freeze well - up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then continue with step 3.
NOTE: This cookie dough is not sturdy enough for gingerbread houses.
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