Classic Gingerbread Cookies. There’s a reason why these have been a Christmas tradition for eons. They’re so much fun to make!
Gingerbread has been around forever. Historical documents indicate that it was originally brought to France by an Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis, in 992 AD. While in France he taught the French priests how to make gingerbread. The tradition continued and spread to Germany. German immigrants then brought the recipe with them to Sweden in the 13th century. There are early references to Swedish nuns in the 15th century baking and eating gingerbread on a regularly basis to ease digestion. Personally, I think that was just a ready excuse to justify the sin of sugary indulgence! Can’t you just picture it: “Honestly, Reverend Mother, I’m not eating it for worldly pleasure, it’s merely to ease my indigestion.”
Whereas gingerbread in cake form has been around since at least 10th century, the first documented gingerbread cookies are placed in the 17th century. They were believed to have medicinal properties (the myth perpetuated by those sweet-toothed Swedish nuns spread far and wide!) and were sold in monasteries and pharmacies throughout Medieval England. By the 18th century gingerbread cookies were common throughout every household and it became popular to paint them and use them as window decorations. Gingerbread cookies remain a popular and beloved tradition today.
So don’t be afraid to reach for a second, third, even fourth cookie…it’s purely to relieve your indigestion, right?
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ½ cup white granulated sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 large egg
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Beat the butter in a large bowl on high speed for a few minutes until fluffy and pale in color. Add the white and brown sugar and beat for several more minutes until the mixture is no longer gritty. Add the molasses and the egg and beat until combined.
- In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture a little at a time using a wooden spoon.
- Place the gingerbread dough on the counter and form it into a large smooth mound. Divide it into 4 equal portions and flatten each portion into a disk. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
- Take out one disk at a time, leaving the others in the refrigerator. Roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Use a gingerbread cookie cutter, or cookie cutters of your choice, to cut out figures. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the figures to the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining disks. Gather up the scraps of dough, reshape into a disk and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before using.
- Bake the gingerbread cookies for 8-10 minutes or until they are lightly browned around the edges. Let the cookies cool for at least 5 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely and then ice them.