If your holiday baking plans include gingerbread cookies, you are in for a treat. These richly spiced cookies sweetened with molasses and brown sugar are a staple in my house every holiday season, and this year is no different. These five tips will help you bake up a truly delicious batch of gingerbread that's wonderfully crisp and tender every time.
1. Making gingerbread cookies is a 3-step process.
While making gingerbread cookies is pretty easy, it's not all that quick. These cookies require a little bit of patience, and I've found it best to approach them in the following three separate steps, spread out over a day or two: making the dough and chilling, baking and cooling, and decorating.
2. Chill the dough before rolling and cutting.
After making the dough, you want to give it at least two hours (as long as overnight) in the fridge to chill before rolling it out. The dough is a lot easier to work with after some time in the fridge, making it less likely to stick to the rolling pin or your countertop.
3. Freeze the dough for up to 1 month (if you want).
You don't have to bake all the dough at once. Store plastic-wrapped dough in a freezer zip-top bag and freeze for up to one month, making sure to label with baking temperature and time. When you're ready to bake, thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator before rolling, cutting, and baking. Want to go a step further? You can also freeze fully baked cookies.
4. Be sure not to overwork the dough.
Really good gingerbread cookies are tender with firm, crisp edges and a soft center. You can only get a cookie like that from not overworking the dough. When over-mixed and rolled multiple times, the cookies have a tendency to lose their tenderness and become tough instead.
5. Don't use too high heat.
While 350°F tends to be the universal oven temperature for most cookies, gingerbread fares best under a slightly lower heat. Since the primary sweeteners in gingerbread cookies are molasses and brown sugar, these cookies have a tendency to burn a bit faster than those made with refined white sugar. For the best results, bake gingerbread cookies at 325°F. This will ensure even cooking, with crisp edges and soft centers.