Gingerbread Cookies

I love Gingerbread cookies because they make me think of Christmas. I think that the only gingerbread worth eating is the soft and chewy variety; hard and crispy gingerbread should be used for gingerbread houses, not eating. When I developed this recipe, I thought that others would feel the same way, but to my surprise, these cookies had mixed reviews with my test subjects. While my recipe seemed to please some, others preferred a crispy texture.  So I’m sharing 2 different variations of the recipe: one for soft cookies and one for crispy ones (aren’t I just so accommodating?) I used my Dad and sister as two of my test subjects when I was coming up with the recipe (I think my Dad is getting sick of being a baked-goods tester. He has started telling people that I’m trying to kill him.)  They both claim to dislike gingerbread cookies, but this is how the taste-testing went:

“Please eat some of my cookies”
“Well, I don’t like gingerbread so…”
“Just a taste. It’s for my blog”
After 1 bite: “Hmm this gingerbread isn’t too bad.”
After 2 bites: “That is actually ok… for gingerbread.”
After 3 bites: “Pretty good actually.”
After 4 bites: “Can I eat these?” (Referring to remaining cookies.)

Yes, it appears I’ve converted the gingerbread dislikers.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

1 cup butter (225 g)
1 cup brown sugar (200 g)
½ cup molasses (165 g)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour (560 g)

Directions

Cream together butter and sugar.
Add salt, vanilla, spices, and molasses and mix well.
Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth.
Sift together baking soda and flour and mix into mixture.
Separate into two balls and wrap in plastic.
Refrigerate overnight.
Roll out to 5 mm thickness.
Bake at 400 F (205 C) for 6-7 min.

Crispy Variety

To make a more crispy version, use 3/4 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup white sugar and bake 2 minutes longer.

I decorated these using royal icing. Click here for the recipe.

Why Does Sugar Affect the Crispiness of the Cookie?

Brown sugar contains molasses, which attracts water more than white sugar does. As a result, it is more soft and moist than white sugar. By replacing some of the brown sugar with white sugar in this recipe, the resulting cookie will retain less moisture and therefore be more crisp. The crispiness of the cookie results when the water has evaporated out of the cookie dough. The process of water evaporation on the cookie’s surface prevents the temperature from increasing too much during baking. The same principle applies when we sweat to cool down (I know this is just the thing you want to be thinking about when reading about baked goods.) Once there is no moisture left in the cookie dough, this “temperature control” stops and the temperature increases enough to caramelize the sugar on the surface of the cookie. And what happens when you caramelize sugar and allow it to cool? It becomes hard. So by adding more sugar to a cookie and increasing its baking time, you are ensuring that more caramelization is happening.

For all those of you who agree with me and feel that soft, chewy gingerbread is the way to go, make sure you do not over-bake these cookies. Now you know exactly why. Enjoy!

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