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What are Gingerbread Cookies?

By Lisa Mohr
Updated May 17, 2024
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Gingerbread cookies are popular baked cookies formed out of gingerbread dough; they are dark brown in appearance and have a firmer consistency than many cookies. Gingerbread dough is designed to be rolled out flat, so many people use cookie cutters to shape the cookies into specific shapes. Gingerbread cookies are most commonly associated with the Christmas holiday, and they are often formed into holiday shapes, gingerbread men or gingerbread houses.

Although there are several variations on the gingerbread recipe and gingerbread cookies, classic gingerbread cookies have a distinct, rich flavor of ginger and cinnamon. The main distinguishing factor in gingerbread cookies is that the recipe calls for molasses when many other cookies would use sugar. This change in ingredients causes gingerbread cookies to have a sweeter, richer flavor, to be firmer, and remain edible longer than other cookies.

There are many gingerbread recipes available. In one version, you must first mix together 3 cups (720 ml) flour, 1.5 teaspoons (7.5 ml) baking powder, 0.75 of a teaspoon (3.75 ml) baking soda, and 0.25 of a teaspoon (1.25 ml) salt in a small bowl. Then whisk in 1.75 teaspoons (8.6 ml) ground cinnamon, 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) ground ginger and 0.25 of a teaspoon (1.25 ml) ground cloves. Blend until all of the ingredients are well combined.

In a separate, larger mixing bowl, 6 Tablespoons (90 ml) unsalted butter, 0.75 of a cup (180 ml) brown sugar and 1 large egg should be mixed together with a hand blender on medium speed until well blended. Once blended, add in 0.5 of a cup (120 ml) molasses and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract, and mix until blended. Add in the dry ingredients that were set aside earlier.

Once the dough has been made, divide it in half and wrap each half in plastic; let stand at room temperature for at least two hours. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius) and roll half of your dough out on a floured surface. Cut the cookies with the desired cookie cutters, place them evenly on a prepared cookie sheet, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes. It is important not to overcook the cookies in an attempt to achieve the normal firmness of gingerbread cookies. Cookies will be soft until they have completely cooled, at which time they will have a harder consistency.

Making gingerbread men requires gingerbread cookie dough to be cut into people-shaped cookies and decorated with icing and, sometimes, candy. Gingerbread houses are also made of gingerbread cookie dough. People making gingerbread houses usually use a different gingerbread recipe — a firmer dough known as German-style gingerbread — to ensure the houses do not collapse. The houses are also usually covered with royal icing and candy and are popular as Christmas decorations.

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