Although I have yet to sample each Christmas cookie recipe currently in existence (and believe me, I am working on it), my all-time favorites are traditional gingerbread cookies. There’s something so pleasantly warming about them, especially when they are dunked in ice cold milk.
Gingerbread has been a staple in Europe since some time around 1000 AD, when a visiting Armenian monk taught his fellow Christians in France how to bake the delicacy. By the 1400s it was so popular there was even a gingerbread guild in Germany which controlled production. The Germans, by the way, traditionally dunked their gingerbread in port wine rather than in milk.
In medieval England, gingerbread was sold as a digestive aid, rather than a festive treat, and our now-traditional gingerbread men were allegedly invented by Queen Elizabeth I as a treat for visiting nobles.
These days one can find gingerbread-flavored treats as far ranging as lattes and cheesecakes, but these cookies are my favorite Christmas sweet. Why not turn production into a party and invite a few friends or family members over to help churn out delicious gingerbread men, women and animals?
This gingerbread cookie recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies (assuming an average cutter size of ~2 ½ inches) so there may be some to spare. Just don’t forget to leave a couple out for St. Nick on Christmas Eve!
Chef’s Favorite Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
- 1 cup softened butter (no substitutes)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- Zest and juice of one orange
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp salt
For the frosting:
- 3 ¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 ½ tsp light corn syrup
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Cream butter and sugar in large mixing bowl. Beat in molasses and water.
- In medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add dry mix 1 cup at a time into creamed mixture.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, until dough is easy to handle. Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick on a lightly floured surface and cut with cookie cutter in the shape of your choice. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake 10-12 minutes, until edges are firm. Remove from sheet to wire racks to cool.
- To decorate: Sift confectioner’s sugar. Beat together all frosting ingredients until smooth. Use piping bag or snip a very small corner off a zip lock bag to pipe frosting onto cookies. Use any candy or sprinkles you wish to embellish your cookies. Be sure icing is completely dry before stacking and storing cookies.
Best places in Holmes County to find interesting cookie cutters:
Ms. Gadgets (located in Nature’s Food Market on Route 39, Berlin)
The “Butter Churn” side of Walnut Creek Cheese (located on Route 39, Walnut Creek)
Best places to find festive sprinkles and candy decorations:
Either location of Walnut Creek Cheese (Berlin or Walnut Creek)
Troyer’s Country Market (near Nature’s Food Market on Route 39)