These festive, chewy gingerbread cookies are made using melted butter so you don’t need a mixer! Perfect for holiday baking (aka cookie season!) when you are making lots of cookies.
There is something so comforting about baking gingerbread cookies. From the smell that surrounds you while they are baking, to the memories they can bring back when you take that first bite.
This has been my go-to recipe for as long as I can remember. I had found it in a baking cookbook for kids. The dough is really easy to make, doesn’t require a long chilling time and keeps its shape quite well.
The original recipe was more geared for kids and had a mild flavor. So I amped up the spices and swapped the maple syrup with molasses to give it a nice kick.
Let’s go through all the ingredients needed to make gingerbread cookies.
Ingredients In Gingerbread Cookies
- Brown sugar: I use dark brown sugar which has a deeper, more complex flavor than light brown sugar. But you can use whichever one you like/have.
- Unsalted butter: No need to worry about taking it out in advance! You’ll be melting it anyway!
- Unsulphured molasses or maple syrup: Molasses will add a nice flavor to the cookies and will keep them from drying out too quickly. I would recommend avoiding blackstrap molasses. I felt they completely overpowered all the other ingredients. If you can’t find molasses, you can use maple syrup instead. The flavor will be a bit milder and the color of the cookies will be lighter.
- All-purpose flour: The flour will make the dough easy to handle and give structure to the cookies.
- Egg: You’ll just need one egg, to bind all the ingredients together and for structure.
- Baking soda: For lift.
- Salt and spices: A little bit of salt and lots of spices will give the gingerbread cookies their wonderful flavor.
This is my favorite part when preparing gingerbread cookies. You can really adapt the recipe to your preferences. The two main spices used are ginger and cinnamon. But you can also add cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom and even black pepper.
I was very tempted to add black pepper to my recipe but since my kids are the main cookie consumers, I had to tone it down! But feel free to go as spicy, or as mild as you want.
One important thing to mention is the quality of your spices. Since the spices are what makes these cookies special, they should be as fresh as possible. Buy spices in small amounts and keep them in a cool and dry place. If you don’t want to buy all the spices again, at least make sure the ginger and cinnamon are fresh since they are present in the largest quantities and will contribute to the taste the most.
My “secret” ingredient: Freshly grated ginger! I had tried so many recipes and spices combinations but there was always something missing! Fresh ginger brings the cookie to life. So if you like a little kick in your cookie, don’t skip it!
Okay, time to make some cookies! Let’s prepare what we will need.
What You’ll Need To Make These Gingerbread Cookies
- A medium-sized pot: To heat the butter, sugar and molasses/maple syrup.
- A wooden spoon: To mix the dough.
- A large bowl: You’ll first need to whisk the dry ingredients in this bowl, before adding all the other ingredients.
- Parchment paper (or cling film): To wrap the dough. You can also use two sheets of parchment paper to roll out the dough.
- A rolling pin: I like to use an adjustable rolling pin with rings on the sides for the desired thickness. I’m terrible at rolling out the dough and this rolling pin helps me get cookies with an even thickness.
- Cookie cutters: Use good quality cookie cutters! I hadn’t realized this was important until I used some terrible ones that wouldn’t cut the dough properly. The shapes of the baked cookies were really hard to identify!
How To Make Gingerbread Cookies, Step-by-Step
Prepare the dough for the gingerbread cookies
- Place the butter, sugar and molasses (or maple syrup) in a medium-sized pot. Heat on medium-low, stirring occasionally, just until the butter has melted. Don’t worry if the sugar hasn’t fully dissolved. Set aside to cool down while preparing the other ingredients.
- In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and all the spices (ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves).
- Add the freshly grated ginger, lemon zest and melted (and cooled) butter mixture.
- Using a wooden spoon, mix a little then add the egg. Mix just until combined. Don’t overmix the dough. I usually start mixing with a wooden spoon then I knead the dough by hand briefly, before shaping into a disk.
- Divide the dough in half and shape into two disks. Wrap well in parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until firm enough to handle. If you want to speed things up, you can roll out one of the disks between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of 6 mm (1/4 inch), before chilling it (fully covered). Be sure to place it on a flat surface, such as a small baking sheet.
Cut out the cookie shapes
- Remove one of the disks from the refrigerator and place it between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Roll out the cold dough to a thickness of 6 mm (1/4 inch). If you chilled the dough for several hours, you might need to let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before using it, so it’s easier to roll out and doesn’t crack.
- Cut out desired shapes and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, placing them about 2.5 cm apart (1 inch). If you are having trouble removing the shapes from the bottom parchment paper, cover again with the top parchment paper. Place a shallow baking sheet on the cookies and carefully flip them over. Gently peel off the parchment paper that was stuck. The cookies should release easily. If not, you might need to chill them longer.
- Gather the leftover dough and roll out once more. Cut out shapes. Repeat this until you have used up all the dough. Try to cut out as many cookies as possible before rolling out the dough again. The more you roll it out, the tougher the cookie will be.
- Bake in the middle rack of the oven until the edges have just set and look slightly darker. This should take about 8 minutes for small cookies and 9 minutes for larger ones. The cookies should be slightly soft when you take them out of the oven. Don’t overbake the cookies or they will become hard as they cool down.
Decorating gingerbread cookies without icing (optional!)
Decorating the cookies: If you aren’t planning on icing the cookies, you could press a few mini M&Ms or sprinkle with granulated sugar before baking.
We were supposed to put some icing on these cookies but my daughter got carried away and completely covered the cookies with small chocolate candies. Just as well, since I’m too lazy to make the icing!
Just note that the color of the candy might fade out a little during baking. Pink and purple were the best colors when using mini Smarties.
Troubleshooting Gingerbread Cookies
The gingerbread dough is too crumbly
A crumbly dough that falls apart when you are trying to gather it into a ball is probably too dry. You could have added: a) too much of the dry ingredients (such as the flour), b) not enough butter or c) too little of the liquid ingredients (such as the egg or maple syrup/molasses). Solution: Add slightly more liquid and combine again. If the dough is still dry, add a little more.
The dough is too sticky
The dough is probably too warm. Solution: 1) Try chilling the dough before attempting to modify the ingredients which could affect the taste and texture of your cookies. 2) Before you roll out the dough, dust the work surface and rolling pin with flour. 3) If you accidentally added too much liquid to the dough, try adding a little bit of flour.
The cutout shapes are too fragile
If you have trouble transferring the cookie shapes to your baking sheet, you probably need to refrigerate your dough again until it is easy to handle. If your shapes are too big, you could use a flat spatula to lift them although your dough would also need to be cold. The shape can easily get ruined if the dough isn’t cold enough. Solution: Chill the dough. When rolling out the dough, dust the work surface with flour so the dough doesn’t stick to it. Alternatively, roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper then cut out shapes.
The gingerbread cookie is hard
This could happen for several reasons and during different stages of the cookie preparation:
- Baking: The most likely explanation is that the cookies were overbaked. The edges of a freshly baked cookie should be firm but the center should still be slightly soft. It will continue firming up as it cools on the rack. Solution: Bake for slightly less next time or reduce the oven temperature.
- Ingredient preparation: If you don’t weigh your ingredients, you might have accidentally added too much flour to your dough.
- Mixing: If you overworked the dough, more gluten will develop which will lead to a tougher dough. If you had to gather scraps and roll again several times, you might end up with a hard cookie. Solution: Try to use smaller cookie cutter shapes that will fit in the gaps so you don’t have too much leftover dough at every step. But it’s best to bake the smaller cookies separately so you don’t end up overbaking them (or underbaking the bigger ones).
- Thickness of the cookies: Thinner cookies will be crunchier than thicker ones. If you like your cookies softer, roll them out to a thickness of 6 mm (1/4 inch). If you like them crunchier, a thickness of about 3 mm (1/8 inch) might be more suitable for you.
- Storing: If you leave the cookies uncovered, they will dry out and get harder. Storing them in the fridge will also make them harder as the butter cools down. Solution: Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.
And that’s it! Hope you have fun making these gingerbread cookies!