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Gingerbread cookies on a white plate.
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Gingerbread Cookies

No Christmas cookie spread is complete without classic Gingerbread Cookies! Dress up these homemade Gingerbread Cookies with royal icing features and outfits.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings 24 cookies (exact yield depends on size of cookies)
Calories 230kcal

Ingredients

For the cookies:

For the royal icing:

  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature (see note 3)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 cups powdered sugar sifted

Instructions

To make the cookies:

  • In a large bowl, sift or vigorously whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.
  • In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed, or in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and egg, and beat until smooth.
  • Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue mixing until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Stir a few strokes by hand to ensure all flour is incorporated. 
  • Divide the mound into 2 equal portions. Shape each portion into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 4 days.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  • On a floured surface working with 1 disk at a time, sprinkle dough and rolling pin with a and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Using gingerbread cookie cutters 3 to 5 inches tall, cut out cookies. Use additional flour to prevent sticking.
  • Carefully transfer to prepared baking sheets using an offset spatula, spacing about 1 1/2-inch apart. Repeat with remaining disk of dough. Gather all scraps, re-roll, and cut out additional cookies. If the dough becomes sticky, refrigerate for 10 minutes. 
  • Bake until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom, about 7 to 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Frost with royal icing (recipe follows).

To make the royal icing:

  • In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed, or in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in powdered sugar until blended, then beat on high speed until thick and glossy, about 2 minutes. Frost Gingerbread Cookies as desired.

Notes

  1. Spices: A blend of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves delivers a complex, warmly-spiced taste that reminds me of childhood holiday baking adventures.
  2. Molasses: Tangy, sweet molasses is the key ingredient in Gingerbread Cookies. It lends a chewy texture and deep flavor. I prefer light molasses, although blackstrap or dark will also do.
  3. Egg whites: To make royal icing without raw egg whites, beat 3 tbsp. meringue powder and 6 tbsp warm water together in a mixer. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually beat in 4 cups sifted powdered sugar until blended, then beat on high speed until very thick and smooth, about 5 minutes. If the icing is too thick to spread or pipe, add more warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Meringue powder is available online; Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link.)
  4. Yield: This Gingerbread Cookie recipe makes about 12 cookies if you use a 4 1/2-inch cookie cutter, about 26 cookies with a 3-inch cookie cutter, or 38 to 40 cookies with a 2 1/4-inch cookie cutter.
  5. Storage: Store these cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature for 2 weeks or in the refrigerator for 2 months. 
  6. Make ahead: This is one cookie recipe that must be made ahead (so the shapes don't spread too much while baking), so get a head start on the cookie batter. Mix and chill the dough at least 2 hours or up to 4 days in advance. Royal icing can be made up to 3 days ahead; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to decorate.
  7. Freezer: Once you have shaped the dough into discs and wrapped them in plastic wrap, it's ready for the freezer. You can place the dough in a freezer bag for extra protection, if you like. Label with the kind of cookie dough, baking temperature and cooking time in the recipe, and the date you made the dough. Before baking, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then roll out, cut, and bake following the recipe’s instructions.
  8. Pipe star: To make cookie decorating easier and cleaner, transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a small tip or a piping bag with a snip-off end (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through these links).
  9. Frosting fix: If the Royal Icing begins to get too stiff either as you mix or decorate, thin it out with a few drops of hot water at a time. Then stir until the icing is well-blended.
  10. Beyond-icing ideas: On top of the icing, add colored decorating sugar, mini candies, edible glitter, or sprinkles, if desired.
  11. Infuse some color: White royal icing is the traditional color for Gingerbread Cookies, but variety is the spice of life. Craving another color? Simply stir in a couple drops of food coloring to tint the icing accordingly. You can also portion out separate bowls to make a mix of hues.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 230kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 125mg | Potassium: 149mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 36g | Vitamin A: 99IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 1mg