Gingerbread cookies have long been one of my favorite holiday treats. I think it has something to do with the fact that they are just so overtly festive (they really only make an appearance between November and December!).
But it's not the little cut-out men that I adore — it's these soft, thick, chewy rounds sweetened with molasses and coated with crunchy sugar to tame the spicy bite. With carols on the radio, snow falling outside, and the aroma of these cookies baking in the oven, you can't help but get in the holiday spirit.
A Gingerbread Cookie for True Gingerbread-Lovers
Yes, those gingerbread cookies decorated with icing and gumdrops are cute, but I am someone who takes my gingerbread seriously. I want lots of spice and lots of molasses. You'll find both are in full force here. Beyond the usual ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, it's the pinch of black pepper that sets these cookies apart. It doesn't make the cookies savory by any means, but instead creates harmony among the other spices and gives these cookies even more depth.
I particularly love dark molasses here, but if you prefer something less heady, light molasses won't do you wrong. Just skip blackstrap, as it can lend bitter, slightly sour notes that may overpower the cookies.
Soft & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured dark or light molasses (not blackstrap)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch ground black pepper
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup coarse or granulated sugar
Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats; set aside.
Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Beat in the molasses, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper. Add the egg and beat thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour and beat until just incorporated.
Place the coarse or granulated sugar in a small bowl. Scoop 1-tablespoon portions of dough, form each into a ball, and roll each ball in the sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart, 12 cookies per sheet. Dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar and use it to gently press down on the each dough ball to make them about 1/2-inch thick.
Bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until the edges of the cookies are firm and the centers are soft and puffy, 5 to 7 minutes more.
Place the baking sheets on wire racks and cool 3 minutes. Use a flat spatula to transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely.
Make ahead: The cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It can also be shaped into balls, frozen onto baking sheets until solid, then stored in resealable freezer bags in the freezer for up to 3 months. Roll the frozen balls in granulated sugar just before baking. Frozen cookies can be baked straight from the freezer but may need 1 to 2 minutes extra baking time.
Storage: Store the baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.