Growing up I did NOT appreciate gingerbread cookies. To be fair, I was a picky-eater kid, so the thought of a complex, spicy cookie that frankly doesn't contain as much sugar as a "normal" cookie was just not going to appeal to me. But oh man how I have changed my tune since then. Now I really enjoy a good gingerbread cookie, so long as the weather outside is chilly. Otherwise it just doesn't feel right.
I do have a few preferences though. These may differ from your own, but at least hear me out. First off, I like my gingerbread cookies spicy with just a touch of savory to them. The recipe I'm about to share contains a decent amount of spices, including 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. I almost never have to measure out black pepper, so it's kind of fun to do when I make these. My second preference is I like the edges to be a bit crunchy but I want the centers to stay a little bit soft even after the cookies have cooled. This is not ideal for making elaborate gingerbread houses because the cookies are just a touch softer than you might want for that. These are for eating, but we can do something fun with them too if you're feeling festive. 🙂
Now I love a good gingerbread house, especially if they are as professional as Laura's Palm Springs house from last year. Whoa! I'm still marveling at that one. But if I'm being totally honest, confection decoration isn't exactly my strong suit. I'm more about the baking than I am the cake decorating, but I certainly admire those with that talent. I LOVE following a few amazing cake decorators on IG (see @alanajonesmann @tortikannuchka @meringuegirls).
But I did want to do something fun with this batch, so I decided to make little gingerbread cityscapes and display them in mason jars, sort of like sugary snow globes that you can't shake. 🙂 We did a version of this in my middle school home economics class many, many years ago, so it's really nothing new. But I did find some pretty fun cookie cutters to work with! Let's make some gingerbread cookies, guys!
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup powdered sugar (for decorating)
Cream together the butter and sugar until well combined. Stir in the egg until just incorporated. Set aside.
In another bowl whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture as well as half of the molasses. Stir to combine. Then add the remaining flour mixture and molasses. Stir until a dough ball forms. Divide in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour or up to three days.
Roll out half the dough on a well-floured surface until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters or you can free hand cut out building or house shapes. Here's where I got my landmarks cookie cutters. You'll also want to use the back of a butter knife to add grooves to your building designs. This is where the powdered sugar will go later to make the cityscape look all snowy.
Bake at 375°F for 8-9 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Rub powdered sugar over the cooled cookies.
Fill a mason jar with a little granulated sugar and place some cookies inside. You can add rosemary for "trees" or mini candy canes to add some color. You can get really creative here if you like. Or keep it simple. Whatever you do, have fun with it. 🙂 You can use these to add to place settings for a holiday party or you can line a shelf or centerpiece with them. xo. Emma
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.