Every year I tend to leave my holiday baking until the last minute, with no time for recipe testing, and end up with just so-so gingerbread. But not this year! I finally took the time to test and this recipe, without a doubt, makes the BEST gingerbread cookie I've ever had.
Let's get baking!
Step 1: Recipes + Supplies
Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 lrg egg
Royal Icing Recipe
4 1/2 cups (1 lb) icing sugar
1/3 cup water + 1 tbs more
1/4 cup meringue powder
medium & large mixing bowls
electric hand mixer
measuring cups & spoons
two 12-14" pieces of 1/4" square wood dowel (for rolling out even dough)
OPTIONAL: gel food coloring
Step 2: Mix Dry Ingredients
Sift all the dry ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl.
Step 3: Mix Wet Ingredients
Using the electric mixer, blend the shortening and butter together for 2-3 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and mix again.
Finally, add the molasses and egg and blend again until the butter no longer looks separated and it's a smooth, creamy consistency.
Step 4: Combine Wet & Dry
Using a wooden spoon, hand mix the dry ingredients into the wet until all the flour has been added. The dough may look a little chunky, but it's supposed to be on the dry side.
Use your hands to form the dough into a large oval / log.
Step 5: Wrap & Refrigerate
Cut the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Can be left overnight.)
Step 6: Royal Icing Recipe
While your dough is chilling, this is a good time to prepare the icing.
Add the icing sugar and meringue powder to a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
Add 1/3 cup of water and use the electric mixer to blend the icing for 5-7 minutes.
It should be bright white, smooth yet crisp, with a bit of a surface shine.
This consistency is for the outline and small detail icing.
Step 7: The Outline & Fill Icing
Use a marker to write 'outline' on an icing or ziploc bag and fill it with half of the icing in the bowl. This is the icing you'll use to 'corral' the fill icing and keep it from spilling over the edge of the cookie. You'll also use the outline icing for small details / patterns. It should come smoothly out of the icing bag without breaking, but still be quite stiff and maintain it's shape.
NOTE: If you would like to have colored icing, you will need to make both an outline and fill icing bag for each color you choose. I prefer to use gel food coloring so it doesn't change the consistency of the icing.
For the fill icing, add the extra tablespoon of water to the remaining icing and mix for another minute or so.
Write 'fill' on another icing bag and fill it with the rest of the icing.
Step 8: Tape & Test
Roll down the ends of the icing bags and tape them closed.
Use scissors to clip off the tips of the bags, making a smaller hole for the outline icing (1/16") and a larger one for the fill (1/8"-3/16").
Test both to make sure make sure they're flowing well and set aside.
NOTE: There's no need to refrigerate the icing if using the same day.
Step 9: Best Way to Roll Out Cookie Dough
--- SET RACKS IN TOP 1/3 AND LOWER 1/3 OF OVEN AND TURN TO 350 degrees F ---
Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit for 15-20 minutes before you start rolling it out. If the dough starts to crack when you roll it, it needs to sit a bit longer.
My favorite way to get cutout cookie dough rolled to a consistent thickness, so that each cookie bakes evenly, is to place a 1/4" square wooden dowel on each side of the dough.
When you've rolled the dough out (flipping and re-flouring a couple of times) so that it's about 1/2" thick, place the dowels close to either side of the narrow width of the dough so that they sit under the rolling pin. As you roll the dough thinner, the rolling pin will eventually land on the dowels, creating a perfect 1/4" dough thickness.
Step 10: Cut & Repeat
Use your favorite holiday cookie cutters to cut out as many cookies as you have dough for.
NOTE: Ball up the excess dough from each cutting round, wrap it back up in plastic, and stick it in the fridge for at least 5 minutes before rolling it out again.
Step 11: Baking Prep
Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a non-stick baking sheet or a regular baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake in the oven for 5 minutes on the top rack, then move to the lower rack for the remaining 5 minutes.
Step 12: Once Baked
Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on baking sheet(s) for 2 minutes.
Using a spatula, transfer cookies to cooling racks.
Step 13: Ice Ice Baby!
Once the cookies have fully cooled, ice them up! (If there's any left after all the cookie 'testing' you do.)
I don't have the steadiest hand for icing, so my holiday hope for you is that your icing turns out better than mine did! :)