Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Decorated Gingerbread Cookies

Remember my leaf problem? Well, thanks to Artie from Craigslist, my leaves have been blown and raked and bagged and are sitting on my curb waiting for pick up! And my yard (which I can finally see again) looks glorious!

And in honor of all those fallen leaves, I decided to make them into cookies. Where I worked in New York, I did a lot of cookie decorating. We had decorated sugar cookies for Christmas, for Valentine's Day, even for the NCAA basketball tournament and the Oscars. What can I say, we were a festive bunch.

But ever since moving and getting a new job, I haven't had the opportunity to further hone my cookie decorating skills and I really started to miss it. So I finally decided to bite the bullet and use a Williams-Sonoma gift card that had been burning a hole in my wallet for almost a year to buy some beautiful seasonal cookie cutters.

Ordinarily I would have chosen either a simple vanilla or chocolate recipe for these cookies, but I happen to know that Dan's twin sister loves gingerbread, and deserved something extra special after she valiantly came over the other night to remove a tick from our dog's head (because seriously, I was just not doing that on my own. Plus, she's a nurse and is therefore much more qualified to deal with anything related to tweezers and parasite removal. I shudder just thinking about it).

I've made gingerbread twice before this and both times were in the service of gingerbread houses. In fact, I've made probably close to 200 pounds of gingerbread dough in the last few weeks for the giant house we're creating at work. Seriously, the house is so big I can get into it, stand up, and probably raise my arms above my head, and could probably fit another two of me in there (and yes, at 5'2'' I'm pretty short). But, if you've ever made gingerbread strictly for a house, you probably know that it's not exactly something you'd want to nibble on after dinner. You'd probably break a tooth.

But this recipe for gingerbread cookies is the exact opposite. These cookies are soft and chewy, but sturdy enough to hold their shape through baking and stand up to decorating. I love the natural color, and think plain white icing with some sanding sugar would also look simple and beautiful. The flavor is also spot on for gingerbread, sweet and spicy.

I tried a few different designs when it came to decorating. Here are how to do two of my favorites. First, outline each cookie. By the time you finish outlining, the icing should be set enough that you can start flooding.

For the "hearts," I flooded the cookie in the same color as the outline, using "flood" or thinned icing and a toothpick to push the icing all the way to the edge of the outline. Then using a contrasting color or two, I added small dots right onto the wet icing. Use a toothpick and drag the end through the middle of each dot.

The second design I liked was a marbled look. Prepare two contrasting colors of thinned icing. Begin to fill in the cookie with one color, purposefully leaving lots of open space. With the second color, fill in as much of the empty space without overfilling the cookie. Use a toothpick to spread the icing out to the edges of the outline until the whole cookie is filled. Then, go back with your toothpick and marble the two colors together by dragging and swirling the toothpick through the icing until you reach your desired effect.

For some of the cookies, I went back and added a contrasting color outline and veins. I used Wilton gel colors in Orange, Christmas Red, and Green, and tinted each color with a little bit of brown so they weren't so neon. I'll be doing a post about royal icing that includes the recipe I use as well as some basic definitions and tips.

Gingerbread Cookies
Yield: About 20 3-5'' cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing

1. In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until soft and creamy.
3. Add the egg and molasses and continue to mix until incorporated, scraping down the sides as necessary.
4. Add all the dry ingredients and mix on low until just incorporated. The dough will look crumbly.
5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use your hands to form the dough into two discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4'' thick. Cut into desired shapes. Space 1-2'' apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpats and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
7. Bake cookies until crisp, but not dark, 12-14 minutes. Let cool on sheet pans, on wire racks.
8. Once cookies are completely cool, decorate with royal icing. Allow to set for a few hours or overnight.

Recipe Notes:
  • Before pouring the molasses into a measuring cup, spray the cup with non-stick spray to make it easier to pour all the molasses out.
  • Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling. If you find it's starting to crack, simply press firmly on the dough with your rolling pin to condition it before rolling.
  • Only re-roll your scraps once, letting the dough rest to avoid tough cookies.
From Martha Stewart


  1. These are beautiful. I want a tutorial. xox Alex

  2. you know what? that'd make a really great birthday present for someone!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Morgan-

    I just got into baking a few weeks and I absolutely love your blog. These cookies look a amazing. I would love to try them soon, but I think I will need to work my way up. Anyway, thank you for your wonderful blog. It is so helpful (BTW-the mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches were great! You are way too hard on yourself!)


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