'Squid Game' Gingerbread

December 15, 2021
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Photo by Yi Jun Loh
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • makes 20 to 25 cookies
Author Notes

I know we’re past the height of the Squid Game craze now, but here’s an idea that came to me some days after watching episode 3 of the show, which (spoiler alert) spawned the dalgona candy trend we saw all over social media for the past month. I’ve been sitting on the recipe for weeks now, but since Christmas is upon us, it’s finally time.

This recipe essentially takes the fun part of the dalgona candy game—where a disk of caramelized, hardened sugar is indented with a pattern to be carved out without breaking it—and gives it a festive spin with gingerbread or gingersnap-style cookies. So instead of a brittle caramel, you’ll have a crumbly, spiced cookie to contend with.

The cookies have that typical, well-loved Christmas combination of ginger and cinnamon. Only instead of shaping the dough into gingerbread people, or walls for a house, the dough is rolled out thin and stamped into circles (I used a 3-inch ring cutter, but larger ones work, too) then par-baked before they are gently indented with the pattern of a gingerbread man—without punching it all the way through. The resulting circular cookie will have the outline of a gingerbread man within, ready to be cracked, just like in Squid Game. Luckily, both winners and losers simply get to eat their cookies here.

In truth, one other reason I came up with this is because I’m terrible at intricately decorating cookies. So it’s perfect then that these aren’t fussy with the icing. You can pipe fancy lines and drapes all around the cookies, spoon a whole blob of icing on it, or if you’re like me, just trace out some minimalist triangles and squares as a reference to the pink soldiers from the series.

Icing or not, these cookies can easily add some low-lift, high-stakes fun to your Christmas celebrations. While they might initially scare off the steeliest of contestants—the shape is definitely more difficult to trace out than even the toughest umbrella shape in the show—give them a go; you’ll find that the crumbliness of the gingerbread makes them more forgiving to crack. —Jun

What You'll Need
  • Cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (106 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) golden syrup or molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Icing
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  1. Sift the all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and clove in a medium bowl. Then, in a separate large bowl, cream the butter and dark brown sugar until fluffy. (This will take 45 to 60 seconds with a hand mixer on medium high speed, or 1 to 2 minutes by hand.) Add in the golden syrup, egg, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Next, add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients, folding with a flexible spatula until no streaks of flour remain and a smooth dough forms. Split the dough in two, roughly shape them into small disks, wrap each dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
  2. When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 375°F/180°C (340°F/170°C for convection). Working with one batch of dough at a time, unwrap and place it in between sheets of parchment paper the size of a half sheet pan. Then, using a rolling pin, roll out the gingerbread dough in between the sheets of parchment paper into a rectangle ⅛ inch (3 to 4 millimeters) thick. (Alternatively, roll it the conventional way on a well-floured work surface, but I find rolling between parchment prevents sticking.) Place it on the half sheet pan and remove the top layer of parchment paper.
  3. Using 3-inch (8-centimeter) ring cutters, punch out circles in the dough, leaving at least a ½-inch gap between each circle. Remove the excess dough so you’re left with just the circles of dough. As much as possible, don’t move the circles left behind; we want them to retain their perfect circular shape. (You can ball up the excess dough, chill the mound for 10 to 15 minutes, then roll it out again for another batch of cookies.) Bake the dough circles for 3 minutes, then remove them from the oven—they should still be really soft. Immediately indent the dough circles with a small gingerbread man cookie cutter (about 2½ inches from head to toe), pressing it into the cookie dough without going all the way through. Return to the oven to bake for 8 minutes, until you see the cookies turn the faintest shade darker around the edges.
  4. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely, another 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat with the other batch of dough.
  5. While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and corn syrup, until the mixture is about the consistency of buttercream, adding more milk if the icing is too thick. Transfer the icing into a small piping bag. Pipe any pattern you fancy onto the gingerbread cookies, Squid Game–themed or otherwise. The cookies are best eaten immediately, but they can keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature. (They will soften over time, but 1 or 2 minutes in a toaster oven (about 350°F) will crisp them right back up.

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