The best gingerbread cookies—in my humble, but cookie-rich, experience—are well-flavored with molasses and warm winter spices like cloves and ground ginger. The smell of good gingerbread cookies baking can and should evoke the sensation of a chilly morning spent wearing your favorite pajamas and slippers, sipping from a mug of milky black tea.
These ones utilize a few tricks for maximum coziness. Firstly, they call for freshly ground cloves, if you can swing it—simply smash them until smooth in a mortar and pestle, run through a spice grinder, or clean out your pepper mill and send them for a spin through the chamber. The fresher the grind, the more delicious the resulting cookies. Next, they follow a fairly standard method for gingerbread cookies, but ask you to brown your butter and bring it back to room temperature before creaming it with the sugar and molasses, for extra-toasty toffee notes. Plus, you’ll bloom your spices right in the browned butter before proceeding with the recipe, for the deepest and roundest flavor possible. If you like a kick in your gingerbread, feel free to use up to 75% blackstrap molasses (using standard molasses for the balance). Lastly, these call for only brown sugar, rather than granulated, for cookies that stay soft in their centers.
Once they’ve cooled, they still have plenty of structural integrity, which is key if you’re using them as building elements in a gingerbread house. Speaking of which, they pair nicely with this recipe for Royal Icing. —Ella Quittner
- Prep time 3 hours
- Cook time 15 minutes
- makes about 15 gingerbread people
1 1/3 cups
(302 grams) unsalted butter
ground cloves (preferably freshly ground)
3 1/2 cups
(420 grams) all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup (30 grams) as needed
kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
(107 grams) light brown sugar
(170 grams) molasses
- Brown the butter: Add the butter to a saucepan (preferably a light-colored one, if you’ve got it) and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the foam subsides and you see brown speckles throughout the butter—at this point, it should smell nutty and irresistible. Add the ginger and cloves, stir, and remove from the heat. Transfer to a measuring cup and let cool to room temperature, adding a splash of water after a few minutes if needed to bring the total volume back to 1 1/3 cups (some liquid will have evaporated during the browning process).
- Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric mixer), beat the room-temperature browned butter, brown sugar, and molasses until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula. Beat in the dry mixture in 2 additions, scraping down the sides between each, until the dough is firm enough to hold itself in a balled up shape when pressed together. (If it feels too soft and greasy, beat in the additional 1/4 cup of flour.) Divide the dough into halves, wrap in plastic, and roughly shape each into a disk. Chill for at least 2 hours, until firm. (Note: You can do this in advance and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days before moving ahead with the recipe.)
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Using one disk at a time, roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thick between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Use cookie cutters or a knife to make gingerbread people (or whatever shape you like!), and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. (You can re-roll excess dough and cut out additional cookies.) Chill on baking sheets for 20 minutes.
- Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, depending on size, until the cookies look puffed up and set. For crunchier cookies, bake an additional 1 to 2 minutes until they’re beginning to brown around the edges. Transfer to a rack to cool before decorating with royal icing (linked in the Author Notes) and or eating.