Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread Men! The ultimate Christmas cookie, is it not?? Gingerbread Men Is it too early to get into Christmas baking? I think not. And is there any cookie more Christmas than Gingerbread Men? I KNOW not! Smells like Christmas, tastes like Christmas, looks like Christmas! You’ll love these Gingerbread Men. You can actually really taste... Get the Recipe The post Gingerbread Men appeared first on RecipeTin Eats.

Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread Men! The ultimate Christmas cookie, is it not??

Gingerbread Men propped up on a mini Christmas tree

Gingerbread Men

Is it too early to get into Christmas baking? I think not.

And is there any cookie more Christmas than Gingerbread Men? I KNOW not! Smells like Christmas, tastes like Christmas, looks like Christmas!

You’ll love these Gingerbread Men. You can actually really taste the ginger and spice flavour. They are lovely and moist inside, and you can make the dough months in advance – super handy to bake up fresh when the necessity arises!

Pile of Gingerbread Men
Cutting out Gingerbread Men

What you need for Gingerbread Men

Here’s what you need to make these little Christmas Gingerbread Men!

Ingredients in Gingerbread Men

Just a note on a few of the ingredients:

  • Molasses – essential for that rich, caramely gingerbread flavour! Golden syrup makes a great sub, or treacle. Honey will also work, but cookie will spread a touch more and not have the same rich flavour (still very very good!). Maple syrup too thin.
  • Brown sugar – I’ve used ordinary brown sugar here. Light brown sugar results in a slightly lighter colour gingerbread and dark brown sugar can also be used which yields a richer, deeper brown colour. All are tasty!
  • Softened butter – technically 17°C/63°F. It should be malleable but should not make your fingers super shiny with grease when you jab it, your finger should basically be clean. If it’s too soft, this will compromise your cookie dough!
  • Large egg – this is 55-60g / 2oz each, labelled as “large eggs” on the carton (it’s standardised). Make sure it’s at room temperature – fridge cold eggs won’t blend in well (might make butter solidify).
  • Spices:
    • Ginger, of course. We are making GINGERbread men, after all!
    • Mixed Spice is a store bought blend of spices used in a lot of holiday dishes. Smells of Christmas!
    • Cloves are optional but add a nice hit of spice and warmth to the dough.

How to make Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread Men are made using a soft, generously spiced cookie dough that is rolled out then a Gingerbread Men cookie cutter is used to cut shapes out. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a Gingerbread Man – you can make any shape you want!

Making the Gingerbread Cookie Dough

How to make Gingerbread Men
  1. Cream the butter and sugar, then add egg and vanilla. You can use a stand mixer or a handheld beater, as I have done;
  2. Beat in the molasses – it will change the colour to a deep golden brown colour;
  3. Beat in the dry ingredients in 4 batches. Adding them gradually helps them incorporate more easily; and
  4. The dough will be soft and sticky, and should stick together when you press it together.

Cutting Gingerbread Men Shapes

How to make Gingerbread Men
  1. The dough is quite soft and sticky so refrigerate it to firm it up. At least 2 hours – though you can leave it in the fridge for up to 5 days, or even freeze it for 3 months!
  2. Cut the dough in half and return half to the fridge to keep it cold.
  3. Roll the dough out between two sheets of baking paper / parchment paper; and
  4. Cut out Gingerbread Men shapes – my cutter is 11cm/4.5″ long. Press down firmly to cut all the way through so they lift out cleanly (though if you have scrappy edges, you can just tidy them up on the baking tray).

Gingerbread Dough Rolling Tips

Gingerbread dough is quite soft and sticky which makes the cookies moist instead of dry inside. Refrigeration makes the dough easier to work with – at any point during roll/cutting process, you can stop and refrigerate to make it easier to work with (be sure to cover dough with cling wrap).

Rolling out between paper is easiest. Do not use too much flour otherwise you will have white dust on the cooked gingerbread.

When rolling, paper on underside wrinkles as dough spreads out (which blemishes dough surface), so flip dough, peel off wrinkled paper then put it back on, smoothing out wrinkles.

Transferring and Baking

How to make Gingerbread Men
  1. Peel off excess dough rom around the Gingerbread Men;
  2. Transfer to baking tray using a palette knife or large kitchen knife. Something long and thin is best to minimise ruining the shape!
  3. Place on a lined tray, adjust the shapes and tidy up the edges if needed (I use a butter knife – just press on the scruffy edges to make them neat); and
  4. Bake for 12 minutes for light golden and mostly soft (though slightly crisp on edges), or 14 minutes for deeper golden and crisp. The gingerbread men will be soft out of the oven but will firm up as they cool. Note, however, the crisp gingerbread men soften the next day. Yet to find the magic ingredient that keeps Gingerbread Men crispy (other than using a drier dough which makes dry Gingerbread Men!).
Freshly cooked Gingerbread Men ready to be decorated

Crispy? Soft?

If you want a softer cookie with the signature golden colour (pictured – my fave!), stick to 12 minutes bake time. For a crispy cookie with more colour, bake 14 minutes. The cookies will be soft straight from the oven, but will harden upon cooling. Note however, crispy cookies go soft the next day. They just won’t stay hard! (Only way we’ve succeeded with stay-crispy gingerbread men is when cookies are too dry… no thanks!).

This recipe makes 20 Gingerbread Men using a cutter that’s 11cm / 4.5″ tall. I use 3 baking trays because the flow of this recipe works nicely to fill and bake one tray at a time.

3 trays of freshly cooked Gingerbread Men

Decorating the Gingerbread Men

The best icing to use to decorating Gingerbread Men is Royal Icing. It’s suitable for piping intricate designs which means it’s perfect for putting smiley faces on our Gingerbread Men, and giving them decorative pants / skirts / shorts and gluing on belly buttons etc.

Also, this icing sets hard and it won’t soften the Gingerbread Men.

How to decorate Gingerbread Men
Hand holding Gingerbread Men

You can get as fancy as you want with your decorations! The way I’ve piped the icing across the arms and “waist” / top of the legs is a pretty classic way of decorating Gingerbread Men.

I use mini M&M’s and silver balls for the buttons.

And yes, I did give him a smiley face. Nobody wants to eat a grumpy Gingerbread Man!????– Nagi x


Watch how to make it

This goes down as the cutest recipe video I’ve made all year!!!

Gingerbread Men propped up on a mini Christmas tree
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Gingerbread Men

Recipe video above. Classic gingerbread men! I love these because you can actually taste the spices. Smells like Christmas when they're baking!
TOP TIP: Dough is quite sticky to work with (sticky dough = moist cookie!). Trick is to make sure it's cold – so if it gets too sticky, return to refrigerator for a bit at anytime during roll out/cutting process.
Course Christmas, Cookies
Cuisine Western
Keyword gingerbread cookies, gingerbread men
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 18 – 20 gingerbread (depending on cutter size)
Author Nagi

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour , plain/all purpose
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice (Note 1)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (Note 2)

Wet Ingredients:

  • 85g / 5 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter , softened (Note 3)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (Note 4 re: light or dark brown)
  • 1 large egg , at room temperature (Note 5)
  • 2 tsp vanilla essenge
  • 1/2 cup molasses, light / true (NOT blackstrap)(Note 6)

Instructions

  • Whisk Dry Ingredients on one bowl.
  • Cream butter & sugar – In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using a stand mixer or electric beater on speed 7 for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  • Egg & vanilla – Add the egg and vanilla, then mix on speed 5 until combined (~30 sec).
  • Molasses – Add the molasses, mix for 1 minute using speed 2.
  • Gradually add Dry – Add 1/4 of the Dry ingredients, then mix until you can't see flour (start on speed 1 to stop flour flying everywhere!). Repeat until all Dry ingredients are mixed in, then mix for further 15 seconds. Dough should be soft and a bit sticky – see video for texture.
  • Refrigerate – Pat dough into a disc shape, wrap in the cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm. (Can refrigerate 5 days or freeze 3 months).
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C (170°C fan) with a shelf in the middle. Line 3 x baking trays with parchment/baking paper.
  • Take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut into half. Wrap half and return to the fridge.
  • Roll out (Note 7)- Sprinkle a sheet of baking paper very lightly with flour. Place dough on top, sprinkle surface very lightly with flour. Place another sheet of baking paper on top. Roll dough out until 4mm / 1/6" thick using a rolling pin. As you work, flip and if paper is wrinkling, peel it off then put if back on, smoothing out wrinkles.
  • Cut (Note 8) – Use a gingerbread cookie cutter to cut out gingerbread men shapes, firmly pressing to cut all the way through. If the dough sticks to the cutter, dip it into flour.
  • Transfer – Use a palette knife (or large knife) to transfer onto baking sheet. Place 6 on the first sheet. Tidy edges if necessary using a butter knife.
  • Bake Tray 1 – Bake for 12 minutes (for classic light golden) or 14 minutes (dark golden, crisp). Then remove and cool fully on tray.
  • Keep Cutting – Meanwhile, gather scraps of dough, press together then roll out again. If dough is sticky, return to refrigerater and work on the other half of the dough instead. Repeat rolling out and cutting out. You should have 18 to 20 gingerbread men in total (depending on cutter size)
  • Trays 2 & 3 – Fill and bake 2nd and 3rd tray with gingerbread men, 6 to 8 on each tray. I find the workflow suits baking one tray at a time ie roll-cut-fill tray-bake, then do another tray.
  • Decorate – fully cool on trays, then decorate! Use a half batch of this Royal Icing recipe to pipe and stick on decorations (sets hard, doesn't soak into cookies). Makes more than you need, but hard to make less – freeze leftovers in fully sealed piping bag for future use.

Notes

Speeds are for handheld beater or stand mixer. Low = speed 2 of 10, medium = speed 5, medium high = speed 7, high = speed 9 to 10.
1. Mixed Spice is a store bought blend of spices used in a lot of holiday dishes. Smells of Christmas!
2. Cloves are optional but add a nice hit of spice and warmth to the dough.
3. Softened butter – technically 17C/63F. It should be malleable but should not make your fingers super shiny with grease when you touch it. If it’s too soft, this will compromise your cookie dough!
4. Brown sugar – I’ve used ordinary brown sugar here. Light brown sugar results in a slightly lighter colour gingerbread and dark brown sugar can also be used which yields a richer, deeper brown colour.
5. Large egg – this is 55-60g / 2oz each, labelled as “large eggs” on the carton. Make sure it’s at room temperature – fridge cold eggs won’t blend in well (might make butter solidify).
6. Molasses – essential for that rich, caramely gingerbread flavour! Golden syrup makes a great sub, or treacle. Honey will also work, but cookie will spread a touch more and not have the same rich flavour (still very very good!). Maple syrup too thin.
7. Rolling tips – gingerbread dough is quite soft and sticky which makes the cookies moist instead of dry inside. Refrigeration makes the dough easier to work with – at any point during roll/cutting process, you can stop and refrigerate to make it easier to work with (be sure to cover dough with cling wrap).
Rolling out between paper is easiest. Do not use too much flour otherwise you will have white dust on the cooked gingerbread.
When rolling, paper on underside wrinkles as dough spreads out (which blemishes dough surface), so flip dough, peel off wrinkled paper then put it back on, smoothing out wrinkles.
8. Gingerbread man cutter I used is 11cm / 4.5″ long. My favourite shape which I only have in plastic which unfortunately doesn’t cook as well. Metal ones I’ve found cut better but shape isn’t as good!
9. Crunchy vs soft – If you want a softer cookie with the signature golden colour (pictured), stick to 12 minutes. For a crunchier cookie with more colour, bake 14 minutes. The cookies will be soft straight from the oven, but will harden upon cooling. Note however, crispy cookies go soft the next day. They just won’t stay hard! (Only way we’ve succeeded with stay-crispy gingerbread men is when cookies are too dry).
10. Different measures in different countries – tablespoon and cup sizes differ slightly from country to country. In most recipes, the difference is not enough to affect the outcome of the recipe, but for baking recipes, you do need to be careful.
This cookie recipe as written works no matter what country you are in EXCEPT Japan (please use weights provided). I’ve made it mixing up US and Australian cups (the greatest size variance) and it came out the same (in fact, that is why the butter is 5.5 tbsp instead of 6 tbsp which 85g concisely converts to!).
11. Storage – cookies last for 1 week in a super airtight container.  Actually, I just ate one that was two weeks old and it was a bit dry but still delicious – no one would complain! The recommended icing for Gingerbread Men will not soften cookies.
Dough – You can refrigerate the dough for up to 5 days or even freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in fridge then use per recipe.
12. Nutrition per Gingerbread Man, assuming 20 (excluding icing).

Life of Dozer

You wear an elf hat for a photo, I’ll give you a Gingerbread doughnut …. pretty good deal, if you ask me!

Dozer gingerbread men doughnuts

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