The main reason to make these popular cookies, really, is to bring out your inner Matisse and unleash your creativity when you pick up the icing bottle. Don’t get me wrong; they do taste good—dense, ginger-spiced and molasses-flavored—but that’s almost secondary here. It’s more about being playful and nostalgic and sharing it with the world.
It is an easy recipe, but I recommend grinding the spices yourself for the best and freshest flavor. (I use my coffee grinder for this and always leave some of the ground mixture in it on purpose—my coffee is wonderfully scented and not unlike the Starbucks pumpkin-spice latte).
To decorate, use the royal icing recipe—either simply plain white as is, or if you’re adventurous, divided into several bowls and mixed with food coloring.
- Yields 30–36 cookies
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons dried ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Royal Icing
- 2 egg whites
- ½ pound powdered sugar, sifted
- Place the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in the molasses, egg and water.
- Mix the flour with the spices and baking soda in a bowl, and add to the molasses mixture. Combine well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and move two racks to the upper part of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half, and knead each half lightly with your hands. Press into two discs.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with a floured rolling pin to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out shapes from the dough with a gingerbread man cookie cutter, and use an offset spatula to transfer them to the baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Reroll the dough and keep cutting out shapes until you use up all the dough.
- Bake in the oven until the edges are firm, about 8–12 minutes depending on size. Let cool on a wire rack.
- Prepare the royal icing. Place the egg whites and the powdered sugar in a bowl, and beat with an electric mixer for 10 minutes until thick and glossy. Transfer to a plastic icing bottle, and use to decorate the cookies.