The Very Best Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

The Very Best Chocolate Gingerbread Men Cookies | A Sweet Spoonful I stood in line at the post office for well over an hour last week and Sam got his turn yesterday. We’re not even procrastinating this year, but the season sure has a way of sneaking up — full force — on us all at some point, doesn’t it? Many evenings over the past few weeks, I’ve been teaching holiday cooking classes at The Pantry, and because of this I knew my own baking may end up taking the backseat, so I did a little advance planning and made and froze dough ahead of time so things would feel less harried right. about. now.  Because soft, fragrant cocoa-kissed gingerbread cookies should be the fun part — waiting at the post office? That’s another story. 
The Very Best Chocolate Gingerbread Men Cookies | A Sweet SpoonfulAfter my last post, I got a handful of emails about how some of you feel downright sad during the holiday season and you don’t know why, or you’re not sure how to find that joyous feeling that a lot of your coworkers seem to have. My sister Zoe shared a story with me last night that made me smile and think about the different ways the holiday spirit finds us. A girlfriend of Zoe’s from college recently had her car broken into and her bag stolen. In the bag were all of her holiday cards, ready to be mailed. Of course, calling and replacing credit cards and dealing with the immense hassle of a car break-in is one thing, but having worked on a personal card, knowing now that family and friends won’t get it this year is another. The Very Best Chocolate Gingerbread Men | A Sweet Spoonful

Well just yesterday, friends in Zoe’s sorority started receiving the cards. Word started spreading from pockets around the country: the thief had sent the cards! The news is grim out there, it’s true. I give myself very controlled parts of the day in which to keep up with it so as not to bring down my time with family or interfere with my workday. But then every now and then, there are stories like this that show a tiny pocket of odd, unconventional holiday spirit – but holiday spirit none the less. Sure, this person is still very much a thief and nothing about what they did should be lauded… but they’re a thief that decided to help spread a little spirit this season, too. The Very Best Chocolate Gingerbread Men Cookies | A Sweet SpoonfulI’ve been doing my share with cookies this year. I worked on this recipe and got to say a few words about baking with kids in the kitchen for Garnet Hill (thus the reason I’m wearing lipstick and look so calm while decorating with Oliver). Much like sugar cookies, this is actually a great recipe to have kids help with the decorating: I piped the frosting and Oliver placed the little cinnamon hots or sprinkled on the colored sugar. He points at each of them and says “mine” as if he owns the whole cookie lot, when really we’ve been gifting and giving them away. But he’s very proud to have helped, and I’m happy to have begun the tradition with him.

I’ll see you back here in 2018, friends. It was a hard year in many ways collectively, and a wonderful year in other ways, too. Sometimes it feels like food is a funny, trite thing to focus on when there are so many other things to write about and photograph today — things that may do more good perhaps? But then I remind myself that feeding each other well is the start of it all, it’s where we begin and fuel our days and where we check in with one another. So let’s meet back up at the table in 2018. It’s a good place to start.

If you’re celebrating the holiday, I hope you have a wonderful, restful time with your people and are able to find (and spread) a little holiday spirit of your own this week. Happiest of holidays to you.

The Very Best Chocolate Gingerbread Men Cookies

The Very Best Chocolate Gingerbread Men Cookies

  • Yield: 24 small men; 8 large men
  • Prep time: 25 mins
  • Cook time: 10 mins
  • Inactive time: 1 hr 15 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 50 mins

Gingerbread cookies during the holiday season are a tradition in our house, and this recipe isn’t shy with the warm spices or molasses. Orange zest and cocoa powder add another layer of flavor, and a simple vanilla icing makes them quick to decorate (even for small hands). One note on cookie preference: some people like soft chewy gingerbread cookies and others like them snappy and crisp. You can get exactly what you want here — for thinner, more crisp cookies, you’ll just want to roll your thinner men (1/8-inch). Remember, they’ll continue to firm up as they cool, so the fact that they feel soft to the touch right out of the oven doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll stay. A good rule of thumb, I find, is to pull them from the oven just before you think they’re really done.

Ingredients

For the Cookies:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (120g) packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup (180ml) molasses
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/4 cups (150g) whole wheat flour
3/4 cup (75g) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

For the Icing:

1 cup (125g) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or half and half)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. Add the molasses, egg and orange zest and beat until fully incorporated.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together both flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and beat until just combined (be careful not to overmix here).

Divide the dough into two even pieces and place on separate sheets of plastic wrap. Form into a chubby disk, wrap well, and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough on a well- floured surface until about 1/4 – 1/8 inch thick (thinner if you like your cookies on the crispy/snappy side). Cut out as many cookies as you can get from each disk, and transfer the cut-out cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. Reroll the dough scraps and cut out additional cookies (you can re-roll one time; after that, I find the dough is too warm and it can become tough – in this case, simply refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and re-roll). Continue until you’ve used up your dough and cookie sheets are full.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are firm around the edges (they’ll be slightly puffed and a little soft in the middle). Allow them to cool for five minutes before transferring to cooling racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the icing: in a small bowl, whisk together confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla. The icing should be thick but smooth enough to pour – if it’s too thick and would be too hard to pipe, add a little more milk. If it’s too thin and runny, add a little more confectioners sugar. Transfer to a plastic bag and snip off a small corner to allow for piping (or, if you have a piping bag or squeeze bottle, those are great, too).

Pipe onto cookies, and set aside for at least two hours to allow the icing to firm up. If adding any sprinkles or candy decorations, do so while the frosting is still wet. Cookies are best enjoyed within five days of baking, but if kept airtight, should keep for 7-10 days.

Comments

  1. Monica

    These photos brightened my day, the recipe is surely one I would love to try (though I'm maxed out this year...there's always next!), and I truly appreciate the story. Thank you and happiest of holidays to you and yours! May 2018 bring you (and all) good health, joy, peace, and goodwill.

    1. Marilu Paz

      Hi Megan, Your photos of you and Oliver are beautiful. I enjoy reading your website and reading all of your recipes. They all seem and look great. I will try to bake some some gingerbread cookies. I am also maxed out for time, job, family, parent, maybe I'll try to make them for New Year. Thank you for sharing , I wish you and your family a safe, healthy Christmas and Happy New Year 2018 .

      1. megang

        Thank you so much, Marilu. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, and I'm so happy you're enjoying reading the blog lately. The cookies are great and really, are nice all winter long so no rush to make them before the holiday! It sounds like you have a lot going on. I hope you get some time to relax a bit and enjoy. Happy holidays to you, too!

  2. Cara

    We miss you and your sweet family, very much. I’ve been looking for a great gingerbread cookie recipe...thank you! If I wanted to make them without the cocoa, do I need to alter any other parts of the recipe?

    1. megang

      Cara! We miss you, too! Let's see ... if you leave out the cocoa powder, I would add in about 1/3 cup flour. If you leave it out altogether and don't sub in something else the dough is going to be just a bit wet I fear. So I would try that and if it still feels a bit wet, add a few tablespoons more. I haven't tried it without the cocoa powder so I'm not 100% sure but this is how I'd approach it. I hope you guys are adjusting to CA, and are enjoying your (sunny!) holiday down there. Be in touch!

  3. Kari Kittinger

    Could I substitute coconut oil for butter? And coconut cream in the icing? Trying to make dairy free for my little Oliver!

    1. megang

      Hi, Kari. You know, I don't know to be honest. My hunch is that yes you could do coconut oil. I've seen other recipes that have used coconut oil in gingerbread men successfully. Let me know how it works if you try it. I think they'd taste delicious. As for the icing: totally. The only thing I could foresee is it may get quite thick and hard to pipe so you may have to spread it on instead ... perhaps google some dairy free icing recipe instead that may be more pipeable? Have fun, enjoy, and report back if you try! Happy holidays, Kari.

  4. Susan

    Garnet Hill..........oh my. I lived in Bethlehem NH right beside them! Great sweater and lovely post. Thank you.

    1. megang

      Such good, classic stuff. Happy holidays, Susan. Thanks so much for reading!

  5. Miranda

    Thanks for this recipe, Megan! I made it on Christmas Eve for my family and everyone seems to really like it. I found the dough easy to come together, and I loved the deeply rich dark colour of it. The subtle orange and spiciness were perfect and I'll be adding it to the yearly cookie rotation. Mine stayed nice and soft in a cookie jar all week. Can't wait for more to read in 2018! (It's never trite, btw)

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