Nothing says Christmas like the scent of gingerbread washing over your kitchen. Not to mention eager kids ready to decorate their cookie creations. Gingerbread is messy, but yummy fun that all kids should get to experience. Now, if you need a great gingerbread recipe the one below is top notch. This gingerbread dough can be rolled thin for folks who like crisp cookies or for tree decorations. If you're not a fan of crisp gingerbread (like me) the dough can be rolled thicker for gingerbread cookies that actually stay soft for the long haul. Bonus, this dough is simple to make, totally organic and because you don't need flour to roll it, a bit less messy than other dough. All that said, grab your kids and get ready for some delicious fun.
Mix dry ingredients and sugar
In a large bowl mix the following until well combined: 3 cups all-purpose organic flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix in your choice of spices. People are picky about gingerbread spices. I don’t like my cookies too spicy, so I use 1 tablespoon ground organic cinnamon, 1 and 1/2 tablespoon ground organic ginger, 1 teaspoon ground organic cloves and a dash of organic nutmeg. This creates a bit of a kick, but not too much spice for the kids. If you like, you can also experiment with anise seed, coriander, cardamom, fennel seed, star anise or ground black pepper. Add 3/4 packed cup organic brown sugar and mix well. The darker your sugar the better, but this recipe will work with light brown if that’s all you can find.
Cut in some butter
Use a pastry blender to cut in 1-1/2 sticks of slightly softened organic butter. Use salted or unsalted, both will work fine. I use whatever I have on hand. The butter should cut in quickly, and the mixture will look like fine crumbs or shreds when you’re done. If you’re vegan, you can experiment with organic veggie shortening or margarine – although note, I haven’t used either in this recipe. Being that this is an egg-free gingerbread though, it’s possible to make it vegan if you go this route.
Make the molasses mixture
Whisk together 3/4 cup Fair Trade, organic molasses with 2 tablespoons of organic milk. We normally have 1% milk in the house, so I used that. You can also use soy, whole milk, whatever you like – the point is moisture. As for mild vs. robust molasses, I’m not a professional chef, so I’m not particular. I use Wholesomes Sweetners – Organic Molasses.
Drizzle your molasses mixture over your dry mixture and start stirring. At first a spatula works well, but as the dough stiffens, you’ll need to switch to a stronger wooden spoon.
The end dough
Your dough, once well combined should be uniform in color and very hard to stir. Now it looks stiff, but I promise as soon as you scoop some up it will be velvety light, smooth as silk and super easy to work with. If you like, wrap your dough in parchment paper and chill it for a while to make it stiffer. I hate working with stiff dough so I skip this step and move on, right away, to rolling and cutting out cookies.
Rolling your dough
Scoop out 1/3 to one half of your dough and pat it down onto a piece of parchment paper. This dough is awesome, not sticky or crumbly at all. You don’t need to dust the parchment or the dough with flour which means no white dust on your cookies! Roll out your dough to 1/4 inch thickness for nice soft chewy cookies. Roll it out to 1/8 inch for thinner crispier cookies. If you want to go nuts and have huge soft cookies you can keep the dough even thicker, but remember to cook it a minute or so longer. I roll mine to 1/4 inch, because I like softer cookies.
Cutting your cookies
Grab your favorite festive cookie cutters and cut your shapes. This dough isn’t sticky, but it is soft, so transferring the cookie shapes to a prepared baking pan can be a bit tricky. Carefully use a thin spatula to lift the cookies up and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Or save time by lifting the entire piece of parchment, with the cookies on it, onto a cookie sheet.
Baking and cooling
If you rolled your dough to 1/4 inch, bake the cookies at 350 degrees for no longer than 7 to 8 minutes. They’ll look a little undone, but remember, all cookies continue to set a little after taking them out of the oven. Wait about 2 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Make sure they’re 100% cool before decorating. If you cut your cookies thinner or thicker, adjust your baking time up or down by a minute of two.
Frosting your cookies
If you like gingerbread with frosting, then a nice simple recipe is as follows (note, if you like glaze, skip the below glaze recipe):
- Whip 1/3 cup of organic butter until light and creamy.
- Mix in 2 cups of organic powdered sugar.
- Add a dash of organic, Fair Trade vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of organic milk.
- Add another 2 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.
- Mix everything until creamy smooth. While you can do this by hand, a small hand mixer will produce better results.
Use this frosting as a spread for cookies, or pipe it onto your cookies with a reusable pastry bag. This frosting is a nice creamy white color, perfect with dark gingerbread, but you can also color it with natural food coloring. I use India Tree Natural Decorating Colors.
Gingerbread cookie glaze
Glazing these soft gingerbread cookies is a bit of a challenge, because they’re soft, not hard. However, if you’re not a frosting fan, this glaze is a nice choice and leaves a beautiful shiny coating on your cookies (see the star cookie above – that’s glaze). To make an easy cookie glaze melt 4 tablespoons of organic butter in a small saucepan – don’t let it brown! Immediately pour the hot butter over 1 and 1/4 cups of organic powdered sugar. Add 4-5 teaspoons of organic milk, a dash of organic vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. If you’re going to add food coloring do it now. Working quickly, because this glaze sets fast, pick up a cookie, dip it into the glaze, swirl it a bit to allow the glaze to settle into place and set your cookie down to dry. Repeat with other cookies.
If you’re adding sugar or sprinkles do it right away, if not, simply let the glaze set. This glaze will set nicely in about a half hour to an hour. If you like, you can use piped on frosting over your glaze to create a 3D effect.
Other gingerbread decor options
If you’re looking for less offensive cookie decorations, meaning decor made without with heaping doses of fake food coloring, check out India Tree. Oddly, not all of their products are dye-free, but many are. Just be sure to read their labels. For example, their food coloring, Peppermint Crunch Decoratifs and their Winter Wonderland Decoratifs and many of their sanding sugars contain no fake colors, but some of their products do. Natural decorating items, such as organic raisins, organic chocolate chips or a simple dusting of organic confectioners’ sugar work well too. You can also visit the Natural Candy Store to find more safe, dye-free cookie decorating choices.