- 3 cups flour, plain/all-purpose
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice (Note 1)
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves (Note 2)
- 85g / 5 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (Note 3)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar (Note 4 re: light or dark brown)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature (Note 5)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup molasses, light / true (NOT blackstrap)(Note 6)
Whisk Dry Ingredients in one bowl.
Cream butter & sugar – In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using a stand mixer or electric beater on speed 7 for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Egg & vanilla – Add the egg and vanilla, then mix on speed 5 until combined (~30 sec).
Molasses – Add the molasses, and mix for 1 minute using speed 2.
Gradually add dry ingredients – Add 1/4 of the Dry ingredients, then mix until you can’t see flour (start on speed 1 to stop flour flying everywhere!). Repeat until all Dry ingredients are mixed in, then mix for a further 15 seconds. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky. Refrigerate – Pat dough into a disc shape, wrap in the cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm. (Can refrigerate for 5 days or freeze for 3 months).
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C (170°C fan) and set a shelf in the middle. Line 3 x baking trays with parchment/baking paper.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut in half. Wrap half and return to the fridge.
Roll out (Note 7)- Sprinkle a sheet of baking paper very lightly with flour. Place dough on top, and sprinkle the surface very lightly with flour. Place another sheet of baking paper on top. Roll dough out until 4mm / 1/6″ thick using a rolling pin. As you work, flip and if the paper is wrinkling, peel it off then put it back on, smoothing out wrinkles.
Cut out shapes (Note 8) – Use a gingerbread cookie cutter to cut out gingerbread men’s shapes, firmly pressing to cut all the way through. If the dough sticks to the cutter, dip it into flour.
Transfer – Use a palette knife (or large knife) to transfer shapes onto a baking sheet. Place 6 on the first sheet. Tidy edges if necessary using a butter knife.
Bake Tray 1 – Bake for 12 minutes (for classic light golden) or 14 minutes (dark golden and crisp). Then remove and cool fully on the tray.
Repeat – Meanwhile, gather scraps of dough, press together then roll out again. If the dough is sticky, return to the refrigerator and work on the other half of the dough instead. Repeat rolling out and cutting out. You should have 18 to 20 gingerbread men in total (depending on cutter size)
Trays 2 & 3 – Fill and bake the 2nd and 3rd trays with gingerbread men, 6 to 8 on each tray. I find the workflow that works best is baking one tray at a time ie. roll/cut-out/fill/bake one tray while you prepare the next.
Decorate – Fully cool on trays, then decorate! Use a half batch of this Royal Icing recipe to pipe and stick on decorations (sets hard and doesn’t soak into cookies). The recipe makes more than you need, but it’s impractical to make less. So freeze leftovers in the fully sealed piping bag for future use.
1. Mixed Spice is a store-bought blend of spices used in a lot of holiday dishes, and it gives Gingerbread Men that really amazing special Christmas touch. Smells of Christmas! Standard spice in the UK and Australia, but if you can’t find it, here’s how to make it:
- 1/4 tsp each cinnamon and allspice
- 1/8 tsp each nutmeg, cloves, ginger and coriander
If you’re missing one or two of the above, don’t fret, just skip it and replace it with the same amount of ginger powder. So many spices going on in these cookies anyway, you won’t miss it!
2. Cloves are optional but add a nice hit of spice and warmth to the dough.
3. Softened butter – Technically 17C/63F. It should be malleable but should not make your fingers shiny with grease when you touch it. If it’s too soft, this will compromise your cookie dough results!
4. Brown sugar – I’ve used ordinary brown sugar here. Light brown sugar results in a slightly lighter colour gingerbread and dark brown sugar can also be used which yields a richer, deeper brown colour.
5. Large egg – This is a 55-60g / 2oz egg, labelled as “large eggs” on the carton. Make sure it’s at room temperature – fridge cold eggs won’t blend in well (and might cool the butter – not good).
6. Molasses – Essential for that rich, caramel gingerbread flavour! Golden syrup makes a great sub or treacle. Honey will also work, but the cookie will spread a touch more, not be quite the same deep golden colour and not have the same rich flavour (still very, very good!).
Maple syrup is too thin and will lose its flavour. Molasses sugar cannot be substituted either.
7. Rolling tips – Gingerbread dough is quite soft and sticky, which is what makes the cookies moist instead of dry inside. Refrigeration makes the dough easier to work with. So at any point during the roll/cutting process, you can stop and refrigerate to make it easier to work with (be sure to cover the dough with cling wrap).
Rolling out between baking/parchment paper is easiest. Do not use too much flour otherwise, you will have white dust on the cooked gingerbread.
When rolling, the paper on the underside wrinkles as the dough spreads out (which blemishes the dough’s surface), so flip the dough, peel off the wrinkled paper then put it back on, smoothing out wrinkles.
8. The gingerbread man cutter I used is 11cm / 4.5″ long. My favourite shape which I only have is plastic which unfortunately doesn’t cut as well. Metal ones I’ve found may cut better but the shape isn’t as nice!
9. Crunchy vs soft – If you want a softer cookie with the signature golden colour (pictured), stick to 12 minutes of cooking time. For a crunchier cookie with more colour, bake for 14 minutes. The cookies will be soft straight from the oven but will harden upon cooling. Note, however, that crispy cookies go soft the next day. They just won’t stay firm!
10. Different measures in different countries – Tablespoon and cup sizes differ slightly from country to country. In most recipes, the difference is not enough to affect the outcome of the recipe, but for baking recipes, you do need to be more exact.
This cookie recipe as written works no matter what country you are in EXCEPT Japan (please use weights provided if you’re in Japan!). I’ve made it by mixing up US and Australian cups (between which you see the greatest common size variance) and it came out the same. In fact, that is why the butter is 5.5 tbsp instead of 6 tbsp which 85g concisely converts to!
11. Storage – These cookies last for 1 week in a tightly sealed airtight container. Actually, I just ate one that was two weeks old and it was a bit dry but still delicious – no one would complain! The recommended icing for Gingerbread Men will not soften cookies.
Dough – You can refrigerate the dough for up to 5 days or even freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in fridge then use per recipe.