You know that phrase “A good man is hard to find”?
Well, it’s true! At least when it comes to gingerbread men.
Perhaps I am just being picky. Perhaps I need to lower my standards. After all, I do prefer my [gingerbread] men rich, tender and with just the right amount of spice. Nevertheless, I was determined to find him so I conducted the Great Gingerbread Manhunt to see which version of gingerbread cookie cut-outs were the best!
This manhunt took 2 pounds of butter, 3 cups of molasses, 4 cups of sugar and 12 cups of flour, but in the end I found my favorite gingerbread cookie cut-out recipe!
In this game you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs (so to speak), so I decided to try out 4 different recipes:
(clockwise from left)
- The Pioneer Woman’s Gingerbread Cookies
- Rebecca Rather’s Gingerbread People
- Fine Cooking’s Gingerbread Cookies
- Aunt Sally’s Christmas Cookies
And the winner?
Fine Cooking, hands down!
- I could actually taste the ginger and cinnamon.
- The texture was light and tender as opposed to dense and heavy like the others.
- The recipe did not require cups and cups of flour.
- The dough was easy to manage and held it’s shape while baking.
- The cookies were delicious on their own (the icing is just decoration).
Before I share the recipe, here is why the other recipes simply did not work for me:
The Pioneer Woman’s Gingerbread Cookies:
Perhaps I did something wrong, messed up somewhere in the recipe, but these were mine and my friends’ least favorite. The cookie was dense, too molasses-y, dry, chewy and bland. The recipe called for 6 cups of flour and only 2 teaspoons of spices total which meant I couldn’t taste any of them. The dough was on the dry side, though it was easy to manage when making cut-outs. PW Gingerbread man, I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me…maybe. Either way, I’ll never bake you again.
On a side note, I did love PW’s technique of rolling the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap. A total lifesaver tip that I used on all four recipes.
Rebecca Rather’s Gingerbread People:
This recipe came in second place because it only called for 4 cups of flour, the dough was easy to manage and the result was a sturdy cookie good for decorating. The flavor was still too weak for me and though the texture took on a pleasant chewiness, the crumb was still on the dry side.
Aunt Sally’s Christmas Cookies
I remember trying these cookies for the first time over 10 years ago. I have not had them since but I do remember falling head-over-heels for their flavor, texture and icing. Also called “Spam Can Cookies,” I figured they were a regular cut-out cookie recipe. Boy was I wrong! The dough, though delicious, renders more of a soft, puffy cookie with dough that is so sticky and stubborn that I had to roll it out and freeze it for hours before I could even stick a cookie cutter in it. And even then it was a mess. But still, these are sho delishush. Plus, the icing is akin to a thin layer of melted marshmallow–wee!
Now that the Manhunt is over, time to share my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe!
The Best, Most Flavorful Gingerbread Cookie Cut-Outs
(From The Best of Fine Cooking Cookies)
Note: The dough will be crumbly but no fear! Lightly knead on a sheet of plastic wrap until it comes together. This dough rolls out beautifully.
- 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
- 2 t ground ginger
- 2 t ground cinnamon (I used Saigon Cinnamon)
- 1 t baking soda
- 1/2 t ground cloves
- 1/2 t salt
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened (I used salted)
- 1 cup very firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 large egg
- Sift the first 6 ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add butter, brown sugar and molasses and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until thoroughly combined.
- Scrape the bowl down and stir in half the flour until mostly combined. Add the rest of the flour and stir until well blended. DOUGH WILL BE CRUMBLY. Lightly knead dough to bring together. No fear, this dough will stay together while you roll it out.
- Divide the dough in half, wrap halves in plastic and flatten into discs. Chill 1 hour or overnight.
- Roll 1/8″ thin or up to 1/2″ thin between two sheets of plastic wrap. Place dough in the freezer for a few minutes until stiffened. Cut out cookies and carefully transfer them to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place 2″ apart.
- Bake at 350˚ for 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow cookies to rest on the sheet for a minute before transferring to a cooking rack. Store in an airtight container once cooled.
There you have it, the best darn gingerbread cookie cut-outs you’ve ever tasted.
Oops, I’m sorry ma’am. I mean the best darn gingerbread woman you’ve ever tasted, too. 🙂