Gingerbread 101 (giveaway: Decorating Cookies)

There’s only one time in the year that I break out the royal icing, the piping bag, and decorative dragées: Christmas-time, when homemade gingerbread cookies are a requirement, preferably available by the dozens. Stars, snowflakes, trees, and the essential gingerbread boy – all are shapes I have been making since I was a girl, and now create with my children.

Every step of baking gingerbread is special, from the grinding and measuring of the spices for the dough, to the rolling and cutting of playful Christmas shapes, and perhaps the most fun of all, the detailed icing work. Sometimes we’ll throw a cookie decorating party, where we ice ten dozen cookies, and coat my floor in sugar in the process; other times I’ll put on some Christmas tunes after the kids are in bed and lose myself for an hour or so creating a drift of pretty white snowflakes.

Both ways to decorate are fun, and you should definitely break out the spices and a rolling pin sometime in the weeks leading up to the holidays. This post will give you enough information to get started. Be sure to stick around for a fun giveaway at the bottom to ensure you are well equipped for the task.

Many of the tips and the gingerbread dough recipe in today’s post are from my friend Bridget of Bake at 350 and her amazing new book, Decorating Cookies: 60+ Designs for Holidays, Celebrations & Everyday. Thanks, Bridget, for helping us to make the best gingerbread possible this holiday season.

The All-Important Dough

I really love Bridget’s gingerbread dough because it is low on sugar and high on molasses. The result is a soft, dark dough, perfectly sweetened, with the flavor of molasses and spices shining through. I’m smitten and so are my children.

Want to switch things up? Shaina demonstrates that gingerbread is a most versatile dough, melding its way into different shapes, sizes and purposes, and capable of giving you a wide assortment of cookies.

Chilling & Freezing

Once the dough is made, it can chill in the refrigerator, well wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days. Better yet, stash a few rounds of dough in a resealable bag in the freezer and freeze for 3-6 months. Gingerbread doesn’t have to be enjoyed just in December anymore!

When you are ready to roll you cookies, remove the dough from the freezer and thaw at room temperature, then proceed with the shaping.

Rolling & Cutting

Bridget bides us to not fear the flour when rolling out a cookie. Indeed, liberally flouring the counter, rolling pin, and cookie cutters makes this step much easier.

  • My tip is to have the dough at room temperature, so it is quite soft. There will be less cracking of the cookies, and the dough will be easier to roll.
  • When the dough is rolled thin, it will bake up crisp like a cracker. When it is rolled thick, the cookies are plump and soft. Both ways are nice; the end result is up to you.
  • For cutting, start at the outer edge of the rolled dough and work your way inward. Place the cookie cutters as close to each other as possible. Use a flexible spatula to transfer the cookie dough. I love this Good Grips Good Cookie Spatula from OXO.

Don’t forget: If you’re making gingerbread ornaments, punch out a small hole with a wooden skewer before baking the cookies so you have somewhere to tie them to your tree.

Baking & Cooling Tips

  • Always make sure the oven is up to temperature before baking. I like to stick with the middle rack only, as my bottom rack occasionally burns cookies. (Because gingerbread have a lot of molasses in them, they are susceptible to burning quickly.)
  • Don’t mix thick and thin cookies on the same baking sheet, as they will cook for different lengths of time.
  • Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.
  • If you are baking ornaments, now is a good time to double check your holes and puncture them again if needed while the cookie is still soft.

Decorating Gingerbread.

Bridget’s book, Decorating Cookies: 60+ Designs for Holidays, Celebrations & Everyday is the essential guide for perfect, pretty cookies and a good place to start for your gingerbread. She also offers tips to {stress-free} cookie decorating with kids that I’ve found very helpful!

Royal Icing is the standard frosting for decorating rolled gingerbread, so you’ll need a batch or two. Guess who has the recipe? Yep, Bridget: Royal Icing 102 and FAQ.

Plan to let the cookies dry overnight before transferring them to tins or stringing up as ornaments on the tree as the royal icing takes a good 12 hours to dry properly.

Happy baking and cookie-making!

Gingerbread Cookies

I find myself wanting to make gingerbread all year long—not just in winter! For a warm-weather treat, try sandwiching a mixture of lemon curd and marshmallow cream between two gingerbread cookies. You’ll never wait until December again! As far as gingerbread cookies go, I like them thick and chewy. If you like yours a bit crispier, just roll them thinner.
4.89 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chlling time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 30 cookies
Calories: 200kcal
Author: Bridget

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks) cold and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  • Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Set this mixture aside.
  • In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and egg. Mix until well combined.
  • Add the flour mixture in three parts, mixing on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  • Divide the dough in half and form into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Prepare a rolling surface and roll out one of the disks (see Rolling and Cutting Cookie Dough on page 23 of the book).
  • Cut as many shapes from the dough as possible and place them onto a prepared cookie sheet, approximately 2 inches apart.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Freezing the cookies helps them keep their shape while baking. Meanwhile, knead the scraps and remaining dough together and continue the rolling, cutting, and freezing process on a second prepared cookie sheet.
  • After freezing, immediately bake the cookies on the center rack of your oven for 9 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies appear done in the center.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet. With a thin cookie spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Rotate the cookie sheets from the freezer to the oven to the cooling rack until all of the cookies are baked.

Notes

Makes 18-30 cookies, depending on thickness and size.

Nutrition

Calories: 200kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 155mg | Potassium: 200mg | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 195IU | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1.7mg

 

Giveaway!

When she introduced her book for the first time, Bridget said this:

“This book is for you.  You, who have never decorated a cookie.  You, who have attempted and want to try again.  You, who love decorating cookies and are looking for some new ideas.”

Flipping through ‘Decorating Cookies’, it’s plain to see that Bridget means every word. Comprehensive equipment lists, an in-depth troubleshooting guide, a photo index of projects, and her tried and true recipes are just some of the amazing content that comes between the pretty covers of this unique cookbook.

Today you have a chance to win a copy of Decorating Cookies: 60+ Designs for Holidays, Celebrations & Everyday for yourself!

** This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to the winner, Nicole Reis! Thank you to all who participated.**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all you future cookie decorators!

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. I love baking cookies but have never decorated any– such a beginner but would love to decorate with my kiddos.

  2. Margery Hilburn says

    What a fun giveaway. Thanks. At the dinner table last night, we were each telling our favorite Christmas traditions. My youngest said her favorite is making Christmas cookies!

  3. I love to bake cookies but I’m definitely a novice cookie decorator!

  4. Rebecca Chouinard says

    5 stars
    I would love this book! She does such a great job and makes some of the cutest cookies!

  5. Novice? I’ve sprinkled cookies for years, but never done anything fancy…

  6. Novice–my husband grew up in Germany (ex-pat) and remember the beautiful gingerbread hanging in windows. I would love to start that tradition in our home, but I certainly need help. Thanks!

  7. Hm. I guess I’ll call myself a beginning decorator? I bake cookies like crazy all the time- but I rarely decorate them.

  8. LOVE decorating cookies! I would say I’m still a novice, but I’m working up to expert. Still have a ways to go!

  9. Lucy Schramm says

    I’d say I’m an intermediate cookie decorator. Lots of experience but not much patience.

  10. I would say a novice. I love to do it but need some more skills!

  11. I love to bake cookies, but my decorating skills are…lacking. Thanks for the chance to win what looks like a really fun book.

  12. The entering device above is confusing to use for me. Here’s my comment. I haven’t done a lot of cookie decorating, but I used to do a lot of cookie baking. Kind of have gotten out of it, since I’m heavy and it’s not that healthy to eat all those cookies. Love cookies, tho! Love pies more. Love ice cream most! How’s that for changing the subject? 😉

  13. definitely a beginner…

  14. I’d say Novice but that’s only in the decorating arena. We make lots of cookies, but just eat them as is…

  15. Total beginner cookie, ‘artiste’! But looming forward to making pretty not strange looking treats.

  16. full on beginner 🙂

  17. I love to decorate cookies, but I don’t do much more than colored sugars and jiimmies…lol…so I’d have to say I’m a novice!

  18. A novice!

  19. I am definitely novice when it comes to decorating the cookies!

  20. This book looks really helpful.

  21. I bake cookies but never decorate them…however, my daughter wants me too and wants to do them herself. Would like this for sure.

  22. Heather Hicks says

    I’m a novice cookie decorator.

  23. That looks like fun!

    • PS: I’ve done a little cookie decorating but nothing fancy like these beautiful cookies! Mine were more “free form.”

  24. I worked at a bakery for several years….I was on my way to being a pretty darn good cookie decorator until I quit!

  25. I’ve had fun decorating cookies in the past, but don’t do it much anymore. Would love to have some tips and ideas to get back into it!

  26. Elizabeth N. says

    I am a beginner. I don’t know if I have decorated a cookie since my childhood.

  27. Tasha Lydom says

    I am a beginner cookie decorator…. i tried. I failed drastically. Hopefully i do a better job next time 🙂

  28. Stephanie Williams says

    I LOVE to bake cookies (and cakes, bread, anything awesome) but I am a beginner at decorating!

  29. Absolutely a beginner! 🙂

  30. Kristin clever says

    Novice, not sure I have ever attempted frosting a cookie the way these look.

  31. I would have to say I am a novice. I have dabbled. Sometimes successfully other times not so much.

  32. I am definitely not a pro but not a beginner either

  33. Looks like a great book! I am in the middle.

  34. I grew up in a cookie decorating house. My mom broke out the dragees on Thanksgiving and we would decorate turkey shaped cookies. I haven’t gone all out in years though, so I’m probably a little rusty. 🙂

  35. novice!

  36. I’m a beginner with grand aspirations!

  37. My cookie decorating skills are not so great, I’m a total beginner!

  38. I am a beginner, would love to win this book.

  39. I am a novice when it comes to decorating with royal icing!

  40. I am a total beginner and have no clue how to decorate 🙂

  41. Love Bridget’s blog, she’s so talented and creative. I would love this book.

  42. I’m a beginner. I do some decorating, but they aren’t anything I’d share with others.

  43. I would say that I was a higher end beginner and lower end novice. I can bake some awesome cookies, but when it comes to decorating, not so great…

  44. 5 stars
    I’m such a novice!! Though, I sure would love this book!

  45. Serious beginner!

  46. I’d say I’m intermediate. I have some piping skillz, but royal icing? Forget it!

  47. Novice.

  48. These will be on my list for my cookie swap party next week! Thanks!

  49. Yummmy! Definitely going to try this this year.

  50. Awesome!!! thanks for the giveaway 🙂

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