It's a family tradition. Every year, I make gingerbread cookies. My cousin brings enough candy and frosting to build a life-size Hansel and Gretel trap. And then all the cousins get to work, elaborately decorating things no one will ever eat.
Because gingerbread cookies, at least the way I make them, are hard enough to chip a tooth. Or dense enough to make your jaw hurt just thinking of all that chewing.
But not this time. This time, I managed to make soft, chewy, delicious gingerbread cookies. Which no one but I ate. (Can you blame them? The last several years have not been kind to their teeth or taste buds. Also, I think I need to accept the fact that my family does not like gingerbread.)
Two things to note: these cookies are a *little* hard to decorate. Their soft spudgyness means arms and legs are going to break off. Also, rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment? BEST THING EVER. Imagine yourself not covered in sweat and flour, and not thrashing the entire kitchen to make these stupid cookies that no one is going to eat anyway, why do I keep making them?
ANYWAY. Want to make your own actually edible gingerbread cookies? Here's the recipe!
Best Gingerbread Cookies
(Adapted oh-so-slightly from the November 1999 issue of Cook's Illustrated)
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons milk
1. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.
2. Scrape dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/4-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, lay flat in fridge for 15-20 minutes.
3. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
4. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into 5-inch gingerbread people or 3-inch gingerbread cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-lined cookie sheets with wide metal spatula, spacing them 3/4 inch apart; set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.
5. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.
Makes enough cookies to fill a gallon sized ziplock bag. I really should have counted. Trust me, this is plenty.
I think I need to go eat one of these cookies right now. Excuse me.