Satisfyingly dense and chewy, but at the same time somehow also airy and crumbly, these quick gingerbread cookies combine all the best cookie characteristics. Incredibly flavourful from the warming spices and molasses, they taste like the very essence of Christmas. On top of that, they are very easy and quick to prepare, which makes them the ideal sweet treat during this busy (but oh-so-wonderful) Christmas time.
This is the third recipe in the series ‘The Loopy Christmas 2016’ (all recipes in this series can be found in the recipe index under ‘Christmas’) – watch this space for more Christmas yumminess. Missed the previous recipes? Check out these adorable Rudolph Mexican hot chocolate and Christmas tree cinnamon cupcakes!
Only one week ’til Christmas, you guys! Are we ridiculously excited about this or are we ridiculously excited about this? It’s like every December we revert to five-year-olds (okay, I revert to a five-year-old), but because it’s Christmas (or rather almost-there-not-long-now-basically-Christmas-already) it’s totally permissible and we (okay okay: I) can pass it off as quirky excitement rather than… you know… behaviour that kind of deserves a raised eyebrow and the shouldn’t-you-start-acting-your-age look. But it’s Christmas time. So awkwardly dancing (shuffling) to ‘Jingle Bells’ and singing along to ‘Winter Wonderland’ a tad too loudly and a tad (completely) out of tune is OK. Unfortunately, it also means that people have an excuse for some downright terrible music choices, but if they tolerate our questionable (nonexistent) singing talent, we can somehow bear to listen to the same awful sappy song. Ten. Times. In. A. Row. (And we can be comforted by the knowledge that we can pay them back by blaring out our own favourite poor song choice. Eleven times in a row. Because, you know, Christmas cheer and all that.)
With only a week until Christmas, I bet my kitschy but oh-so-amazing holiday sock collection that you’re seriously lacking the the time department. What with all the present-wrapping, Christmas-card-writing, and Christmas-parties-attending, there’s hardly enough time to spend hours in the kitchen to make festive goodies. But that should not mean that you have to resort to store-bought… anything, really. So, to make things easier for you this holiday season, let me introduce: the one and only, quick gingerbread cookies (only because ‘very quick and easy gingerbread cookies that taste like the essence of Christmas and you so definitely need to try them otherwise your life won’t be complete’ is too long a title).
I’m not exaggerating; eating these gingerbread cookies really is like eating the essence of Christmas. They leave you all warm and tingly and slightly nostalgic, but also incredibly happy and you simply can’t wait for more. Waiting for the gingerbread to come of the oven is a mini prelude to the excitement of Christmas morning, with the added benefit of all the out-of-this-world smells filling the kitchen and making your mouth water in anticipation. The moment you pop one into your mouth (preferably warm) you’re enveloped in this spicy cloud of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, and then at the end the ginger kicks in with just the right amount of heat that feels like a warm blanket. Only in your mouth. Tongue blanket? A-anyway, moving on.
Of course, gingerbread wouldn’t be gingerbread without molasses. It’s what allows the gingerbread to be satisfyingly dense and chewy, while somehow incredibly also being airy and crumbly. Mind: blown. Now, there are recipes (very good recipes, at that) that substitute golden syrup for molasses – but for me, that just… doesn’t cut it. So we’re going hardcore here and putting in a good dollop of molasses. And it will feel like it’s way too much and then you’ll try just a tiny bit of this black stickiness, and you’ll start freaking out because on it’s own, molasses is just… yucky (to borrow some kindergarten lingo). But worry not, I’m not setting you up for disaster. Once it’s all nicely mixed into the final cookie dough, the molasses is mellowed out by the butter, sugar, flour, and spices, and you’ll never go back to the safe and boring option that is golden syrup.
Now, this recipe is easy-peasy. A piece of cake, really, only that it’s cookie dough. Very very yummy cookie dough (resist, stop snacking on it, no, put it down), that takes only about 10 minutes to put together. It then needs to rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Preferably overnight. You might now be frowning at me from behind your computer screens thinking to yourself: ‘ But didn’t she just say that these are quick gingerbread cookies?’ Yes, they are. Because two hours or overnight is a long time in which you can forget all about the cookies (although your mind will undoubtedly stray to this deliciousness) and do other things. Like, you know, make very poor music choices. Or awful movie choices, that works too. Because, you know, it’s almost Christmas, and therefore, it’s kind of to be expected.
But after the resting, the rolling, and the cutting, the cookies are in and out of the oven in only about 10 minutes. Talk about quick and easy, am I right or am I absolutely right?
One thing you should know about me, is that I’m slightly (very) indecisive. Especially when there are many tempting choices. A brownie or a chocolate chip cookie? Why not a brownie sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies? Personally, I think (especially in such tasty tasty cases) that being indecisive isn’t such a bad thing – you come up with some pretty out-there combinations. Which mostly work – and when they do, they reach out-of-this-world levels of mouthwatering. And when they don’t… well, at least you get a good laugh after the initial facepalm moment (and after thoroughly rinsing you mouth).
In the case of these gingerbread-flavoured bundles of Christmas adorableness, my indecisiveness came out to play when it was time to decorate. Should I go with timeless chic? Or with ‘I-am-a-prancing-unicorn’ colourfulness? As you’ve probably gathered from the photos, and as expected from my inability to pick only one, I chose both. And I am so so happy I did. Because looking at the results, I can’t decide which ones I prefer. And really, I think people often limit themselves when it comes to decorating gingerbread cookies, usually making them all look similar, like little soldiers. Which is all very nice (and sugar and spice), but let’s all go a bit crazy this year, shall we?
So here you have it – my contribution to your (hopefully) slightly less stressful Christmas. Quick gingerbread cookies. Make them, decorate them, stuff your face with them. And in the following week, let your inner five-year-old out to play. Make poor movie, and even poorer song choices. Sing out of tune. Dance awkwardly. But do it with a too wide a smile on your face, and with kitschy holiday socks on your feet. Basically, do it Christmas style.
QUICK GINGERBREAD COOKIES
For gingerbread cookies:
- 180 g unsalted butter, softened
- 135 g light muscovado sugar
- 1 large egg
- 125 g molasses
- 400 g plain flour
- 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tsp ginger
- 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp salt
For royal icing (Note 1):
- 3 g egg white powder
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 80 g icing sugar, sifted
- sprinkles, chocolate nuggets... whatever your heart desires
For gingerbread cookies:
- Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
- Add egg to the butter/sugar mixture and mix thoroughly.
- Add molasses to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until uniformly distributed.
- Sift together flour, bicarbonate of soda, the spices and salt, and add to the butter/sugar mixture.
- Mix with a wooden spoon, or use a stand mixer, until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly together into a smooth dough. (Note 2)
- Shape the dough into a flattened disc, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. (Note 3)
Preheat the oven to 350 ºF (175 ºC).
- Line a baking tray with baking/greaseproof paper.
- Roll out the cookie dough on a lightly floured surface about 1/2 cm thick, and cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter of your choice.
- Place the cookies onto the baking tray, leaving about 1.5 cm between them.
Bake in the preheated oven at 350 ºF (175 ºC) for 8 – 10 minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool before decorating.
For royal icing:
- Re-hydrate egg white powder according to instructions on the package.
- Add 1/2 tsp lemon juice and whisk lightly.
- Add icing sugar, about 1 tbsp at a time, whisking on medium to high speed after each addition, using either a stand or a hand mixer with a whisk attachment in both cases.
- Whisk the icing until fluffy and the appropriate consistency for piping (too runny won't produce clean lines, too thick will be difficult to pipe through a small nozzle). (Note 4)
- Pipe the royal icing onto the cookies with a piping bag using a small round nozzle.
- Let your imagination run wild – anything goes!
- The cookies keep well in a closed container in a dry and cool place for about a week (nope, no way will they last that long).
Note 1: I chose not to use fresh egg white to prepare royal icing. If you feel comfortable using it, the amount of icing sugar will be different, so I suggest following an alternative recipe for that part.
Note 2: The dough will probably be slightly sticky at this point, but resist the temptation of adding more flour – it's supposed to be that way.
Note 3: Refrigeration prevents the cookies from spreading too much during baking – we want to keep the well-defined shape!
Note 4: If the royal icing seems too runny, add more icing sugar. If it's too thick, add a small amount of water and whisk thoroughly.
Looking for more cookie inspiration? Why not try…