Gingerbread Man Cookies

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Originally posted 2005.

No cookie says Christmas more than a gingerbread man cookie. It’s been thirty years since I last made gingerbread men, and it took all weekend to get this recipe right. After starting with a truly terrible recipe from a 1974 edition of the Joy of Cooking (1/4 cup of butter for 3 1/2 cups of flour? – had to throw the whole batch out), I settled on this recipe, which makes some rather tasty cookies.

After running around to several stores looking for the perfect gingerbread man cookie cutter, and getting nowhere, I created my own stencils (see links below). To use them, print them out and fold them in half lengthwise to make it easy to cut along the lines (don’t worry if the lines don’t perfectly match up, I drew them freehand.) Place the stencil over the rolled-out dough and use a small sharp knife to cut along the inside of the stencil.

Gingerbread Man Cookies Recipe

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  • Yield: Makes 16 5-inch long cookies.

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature, softened)
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • Optional raisins, chocolate chips, candy pieces, frosting

Royal Icing

  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)

Method

1 In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.

2 In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Mix in eggs and molasses. Gradually add the flour mixture; combine on low speed. (You may need to work it with your hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.) Divide dough in thirds; wrap each third in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Before rolling out, let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. If after refrigerating the dough feels too soft to roll-out, work in a little more flour.

3 Heat oven to 350°. Place a dough third on a large piece of lightly floured parchment paper or wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate again for 5-10 minutes to make it easier to cut out the cookies. Use either a cookie cutter or place a stencil over the dough and use a knife to cut into desired shapes. Press raisins, chocolate chips, or candy pieces in the center of each cookie if desired for "buttons".

4 Transfer to ungreased baking sheets. Bake until crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit a few minutes and then use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired.

 

Royal Icing

The traditional way to make Royal Icing is to beat egg whites and lemon juice together, adding the powdered sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. With modern concerns about salmonella from raw eggs, you can either use powdered egg whites or heat the egg whites first to kill any bacteria. With the heating method, mix the egg white and lemon juice with a third of the sugar, heat in a microwave until the mixture's temperature is 160°F. Then remove from microwave, and beat in the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Using the powdered egg whites method, combine 1 Tbsp egg white powder with 2 Tbsp water. Proceed as you would otherwise. (Raw egg white alternatives from the 2006 Joy of Cooking)

If the icing is too runny, add more powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency. Fill a piping bag with the icing to pipe out into different shapes. (Or use a plastic sandwich bag, with the tip of one corner of the bag cut off.) Keep the icing covered while you work with it or it will dry out.

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Gingerbread man cookie stencils:

Gingerbread Man Stencil
Gingerbread Woman Stencil

Links:

Shuna's Famous Gingerbread

A collection of gingerbread recipes through the ages from the Old Foodie

Gingerbread Man Cookies

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Showing 4 of 107 Comments

  • Chloe

    All I could taste was Molasses :( :( :(

  • Tamara

    I tried this recipe tonight and it worked wonderfully! I used the royal icing recipe, which has hardened nicely on the cookies by now. So, I’m wondering about storing the cookies. Do they need to be stored in air tight containers?
    Also, I put the left over icing in the fridge in a plastic bag and I’m getting the impression that it won’t keep until tomorrow, when I hope to finish frosting them. So, I’ll probably go ahead and make an extra batch when I’m ready.
    Thanks for your help!

    I would recommend storing in an airtight container. ~Elise

  • Yentlsoup

    Although my family made over a dozen types of cookies every year at Christmas, we had no tradition of gingerbread. The last time I was asked to make gingerbread cookies, it was horrible. The dough was probably fine but the rolling and cutting was impossible.

    For this, I followed the recipe EXACTLY except for the pepper. My spice grinder finally gave up and I couldn’t get the pepper fine enough for this kind of thing. Also, for my first batch I skipped the second chilling step, and regretted it.

    For those who have not tried to make gingerbread men before, I would strongly recommend following the instructions carefully on chilling. It makes the difference between nightmare and just making tasty cookies.

  • Teater

    I followed the recipe exactly (except that I did raisins, no icing). They were easy to roll out. I baked them on the softer end of the time spectrum. Spice cookies are often best the next day and this was true here. Fabulous texture. But just pretty good flavor. I love molasses cookies but these should have tasted more of ginger since they’re gingerbread and for the holidays. Next time I will bake slightly crisp (one minute more), reduce molasses and increase ginger, and press the raisins in more firmly. Otherwise great.

  • Carolina

    Hi, I just wanted to thank you for posting this amazing recipe. I made gingerbread men for this christmass and couldn’t believe how great they were! I loved the spicy and softly sweet flavor, also the texture was great.
    I replaced molasses with honey, because I ran out of it and didn’t notice until I start cooking, but it didn’t mean a problem. Also, I didn’t use black pepper and instead added an extra ginger tablespoon.
    Thanks again, I’m visiting your blog again if I need to cook something for sure!
    Greetings from Chile :)

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