I can’t be the only one who has trouble finding a decently shaped gingerbread man cookie cutter. They’re either too big or too small, too detailed or not detailed enough, or horrifically bent and misshapen. This year I settled on a plain cutter, though I was sorely tempted by these ninjabread men.
I’m a member of the minimalist school of gingerbread man decorating. Sometimes I don’t decorate them at all, and sometimes I give them two or three buttons. Comparatively, these borders and expressions are pretty elaborate. One of these days I will work my way up to a full-fledged gingerbread house.
I thought this gingerbread recipe was especially good. The cookies are strongly flavored and not too sweet. Even when thoroughly chilled, the dough is soft to work with. I would recommend 1) making the dough and chilling it overnight, 2) rolling out portions of the dough and cutting the cookies, and 3) freezing the cut dough sheets before removing the cookies. If you try to move the cut shapes while the dough is at room temperature, you’ll end up with torn or distorted cookies. The finished cookies will stay crisp for nearly a week- perfect for shipping and holiday snacking.
adapted from Rick Rodger’s recipe on foodnetwork.com
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and shortening until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy (2-5 minutes). Beat in the molasses and egg.
4. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until a stiff dough forms. Divide the dough into two disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until chilled.
5. On a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of wax or parchment paper, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. For softer cookies, roll slightly thicker.
6. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies. Transfer to cookie sheets, placing them 1 inch apart (if the dough is too soft, chill before transferring the cookies). Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are set and crisp. Cool on the cookie sheets for two minutes, then transfer to wire racks. When completely cool, decorate as desired.