gingerbread cookies

It’s hard to imagine anything that smells more heavenly than freshly made gingerbread.

There are things that come close, like homemade bread, or a batch of cinnamon buns, a pan full of garlic sautéing in butter, or stuffing loaded with onions, sage, rosemary, and thyme. But really, not much beats the scent of freshly baked gingerbread. It’s the scent of Christmas, of old-fashioned kitchens where people really cook, and of the sweetest childhood memories. It’s the scent of nostalgia and happiness. And it tastes of sweetness and spice and love.

This is a really old recipe. The one I’ve used forever. It was my mother-in-law’s recipe. I upped the amount of ginger because I’m fond of ginger.

This year, inspired by Chatelaine magazine’s sugar cookies gracing the cover of the December issue, I made royal icing and then used a food grade paint brush dipped in a few drops of vodka mixed with paste icing to paint on patterns. I know these are not works of art. That’s fine with me – they’re intended to be eaten. I’m not crazy about royal icing because you either have to use meringue powder (all those chemicals…) or a raw egg white (dangerous). Usually I just make icing from powdered sugar and milk or almond milk and that’s fine too – you just won’t get quite the same results. If you want to use regular icing – check out this post from the same day last year.

Now that I’ve made the gingerbread –  it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas… or at least, a lot more like Christmas than it did a week or so ago. Next job – write and mail the cards. Onwards…

Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies

  • Servings: ~60 cookies
  • Print

  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • I cup sugar
  • 1 cup fancy molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tsp of ground (powdered) ginger

In a large bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar. Stir in the molasses and egg. Add the dry ingredients and stir. Cover and chill for an hour or so.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface. Should be about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes and bake on a lightly greased cookie sheets at 325 for about 10-12 minutes. Lift onto wire racks and allow to cool fully before icing.

Makes about 60 cookies, depending obviously, on the size of your cookie cutters.

Use your favourite icing recipe. If using Royal Icing – let the icing set for at least 12 hours before proceeding to the vodka/paste colouring painting.



23 thoughts on “gingerbread cookies

  1. I totally agree about the smell of gingerbread baking being one of the most intoxicating aroma’s and one that is terribly nostalgic. I imagine one of those Aga or Chambers cast iron enamel stoves baking trays of gingerbread cookies. I love your cookies, they are beautiful in my opinion, slightly imperfect but I think thats is what makes the so beautiful, Happiest of Holidays to you and I will try your gingerbread recipe.

  2. Well, it certainly looks like you’re beginning to get into the festive spirit! I’m hoping you’re resting when you need to. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever had gingerbread. Ginger snaps/cake and stuff like that. Odd, as I love ginger. Would like to try these, but what is fancy molasses? Is it similar to treacle? I do have that in my baking drawer, as yet unopened. Anyway, hope you’re well on the mend – as they say!

    1. Thanks Johnny, not quite my old self yet but getting there. Treacle is the perfect substitute for fancy molasses. I think you’ll like these as they’re very flavourful and not excessively sweet and strike me as being quite up your alley. Plus they will get you into fine holiday form! 😉

  3. We loved these last year, and I suspect this year will be no different….Wot does Lola think of them? Would she like to come over and bake with us?

  4. Love the blue and white Delft-like patterns on your gingerbread. And, to answer the question from Johnny … yes, treacle is often substituted for molasses in the UK. However, many wholefood stores carry molasses if you want the “real” thing. I think the taste difference is minor, but molasses tends to be a bit more “sulphurated”.

    1. Thank you so much! I saw some similar cookies on a magazine cover and just executed my own recipe and version. I must confess – patience for decorating cookies to make edible works of art is not my strong point!
      I’ve used both treacle and molasses in my kitchen and find them largely interchangeable except that treacle tastes slightly stronger than fancy molasses (which is unsulphured and lighter than other types of molasses like blackstrap).

  5. Oh my goodness, Lindy these are beautiful! I actually made gingerbread cake last year, but I’ve never made a gingerbread cookie. I always feel a little bad when I dismember and eat those cute little men, but they taste so darn good. I think I’m going to try this recipe, especially since it’s been in your family. I may do it for this weekend since it seems easy enough. Yay!

    1. Dear Amanda – thank you. The gingerbread itself is wonderful and I’d love to see what you do with it. I always plan to decorate beautiful cookies but when it comes down to it – they’re cookies and it seems an almost irreverent use of precious time to spend hours icing something that will be eaten in fifteen seconds. So I go at the decorating in my usual hurly burly. The joy is in the baking – in the scent – in the nostalgia they evoke. And then in the eating!
      That said – you never cease to inspire me and I know whatever you do with your biscuits will encourage me to lift my game. Wouldn’t this be fun to do together?!

      1. I think there’s something to be said for traditional gingerbread things. I am actually not very talented in terms of cake decorating. I never really baked until last year so I’m SURE you’d kick my butt. But I really appreciate the compliments. I’d love to do this with you. I’m not ruling out the possibility of hanging out in your newly renovated kitchen for a day next summer after I saw how beautiful Vermont was. I’ll cross into New Hampshire and invite myself over.

  6. Your gingerbread cookies are perfect. I thought the blue and white ones for some unkown reason look the most tempting. They are the type of biscuit i like to nibble! Do hope you are well on the road to recovery?

    1. Dear Maria – thank you! I am well on the road to recovery though I have a tendency to do too much and then pay the price. Pacing myself was never my strong suit. Merry Christmas to you – and the happiest of New Years. xo

  7. Your gingerbread cookies make me smile…I love the way you decorated them. I use raw egg whites when I make royal icing but I’m very lucky that the eggs come of a friend’s chicken so they are fresh as can be.

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