It's hard to beat the smell of gingerbread cookies wafting through the air as they bake. In fact, it's arguably a solid reason to bake them in the first place (although it definitely doesn't hurt if they taste great, too). Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, these cookies have just the right balance of sweet and spice.
Here are a few tricks of the trade to make the best gingerbread cookies yet — and the mistakes that can lead to subpar results.
1. Not using molasses.
Molasses is the sweetener of choice in any good gingerbread cookie, as it lends that unique deep, dark flavor to them, but for the best texture don't use it alone. Using a mix of molasses and brown sugar ensures that the cookies will be perfectly crisp on the outside but incredibly moist and chewy on the inside.
Follow this tip: Use a combination of both molasses and dark brown sugar in your gingerbread cookie dough to ensure that they'll be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
2. Forgetting to chill the dough.
It's tempting to want to roll out the dough as soon as it comes together, but let it have a little time to rest. Chilling it for at least two hours or overnight gives the ingredients a chance to absorb one another, making it a whole lot easier to roll out the dough without it cracking.
Follow this tip: Let the dough chill in the refrigerator, well-wrapped, for at least two hours or overnight before rolling it out.
3. Not leaving enough space between cut-outs on the baking sheet.
Unless you want your gingerbread boys and girls holding hands, that is. Cut-out cookies spread just like drop cookies do, so it's important to give them each plenty of space on the baking sheet.
Follow this tip: Leave a good inch between each gingerbread cookie on the baking sheet before sticking them in the oven.
4. Baking at too high of a heat.
Since the primary sweeteners in gingerbread cookies are molasses and brown sugar, they can actually burn a lot faster than cookies made with refined white sugar. To ensure even cooking, with crisp edges and soft centers, bake at a lower heat.
Follow this tip: Bake gingerbread cookies at a reasonable 325°F in order to prevent them from burning before they are cooked through.
5. Not letting the cookies cool before decorating.
Your icing is ready and waiting, but let those gingerbread cookies completely cool before adding faces and buttons to them. Otherwise, the icing could melt and weep all over the cookies before it even has a chance to firm up.
Follow this tip: Transfer freshly baked gingerbread cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely before decorating.