A sweet, simple spin on a Christmas tradition, these gingerbread star cookies boast slightly crisp edges, chewy centers, and the rich flavor of brown sugar, molasses, and spices.
One of the loveliest things about the holidays is continuing, starting, or remembering little traditions.
Of course, we all go back and forth with the balance of trying new things vs. cherishing the old, and hopefully I’m not the only one who sometimes falls in love with something and declares it my new tradition, only to promptly forget about it until the holidays are long gone the following year. Whoops.
So I’m committing myself in writing here – these cookies are a favorite tradition, and one that I will not cannot shall not forget!
I mean, gingerbread is pretty ubiquitous come Christmas-time. From gingerbread men to pretty snowflakes, it’s not exactly a revelation or surprise. But having found and tweaked and committed to memory the perfect recipe? That’s something to memorialize!
I confess I make these over the course of about three days. (Life with a toddler, ha.) The dough is quite soft – any dough that incorporates molasses will be – and therefore really needs a generous amount of time to chill in the fridge. The molasses more than makes up for this minor inconvenience by adding rich flavor and that beautiful dark brown glow.
And, in this instance I was perfectly glad for the chill time, because it meant I could whip up the cookie dough, wrap it and stash it in the fridge, all in the space of about 15 minutes, then wait for another convenient time to roll out the dough, cut shapes, and bake. Same with decorating.
“A convenient time” for both these things turned out to be after toddler bedtime, meaning that I was fairly efficient, but did not take any process shots, because it was already pitch black outside! (Nighttime food photos –> food photos on which no one wants to feast their eyes.)
But if, ahem, when I make them again, I will be sure to do so during the day, for better or worse, and snap a few photos along the way to assure you of just how straightforward this is.
My plan is to make these again quite soon, in fact, and start a little tradition of leaving these particular cookies out for Santa each Christmas Eve.
Of course, you could cut these into gingerbread men or any shape you like. I like the stars because they are simple, easy to cut, easy to decorate, and still pretty! In fact, there’s a lot to like here:
- Slightly crispy edges.
- Chewy caramelized centers, thanks to a full cup of molasses and brown sugar, which generally makes baked goods more soft and chewy than granulated.
- A ton of flavor, thanks to generous spoonfuls of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
- Cookies that HOLD THEIR SHAPE while baking! Yay!
- An easy cookie frosting that has all the benefits of royal icing (sheen, dries hard, easy to adjust consistency and color, if you like) and none of the hassle.
In fact, the only thing I don’t like about these is the obscene number I eat. Mostly with a cup of tea late in the evening, but maybe one snuck in during the middle of the day, or with morning coffee.. etc etc etc.
More Festive Baking Ideas:
- Sprinkle Sugar Cookies
- Toffee Butterscotch Brownie Cookies
- Double Chocolate Espresso Walnut Cookies
- Brown Butter Slab Pecan Pie Bars
And if you’re looking for a quick way to make a huge amount of treats, you must try our favorite chocolate toffee shortbread bars and the most amazing peanut brittle and chocolate bark, both from Mama Gourmand! Teacher/neighbor gift boxes: DONE.
What are your favorite baking traditions for the holidays? I love hearing about the little things that get passed down through the years. And, of course, I hope you and yours enjoy this gingerbread recipe as much as we do. Happy baking! ♥
Gingerbread Star Cookies
For the Cookies:
- 4 cups (480 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons, 227 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup (213 grams) brown sugar tightly packed (light or dark is fine)
- 1 cup (340 grams) molasses
- 1 large egg
For the Icing:
- 3 cups (340 grams) powdered sugar
- 5-6 Tablespoons water at or near room temperature
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of table salt
- To make the dough, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices; set aside.
- Using a hand or stand-mixer, blend the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the molasses and egg until combined. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into two roughly equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, flatten slightly into a disc, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. (This makes it much easier to roll out the dough later!)
- Transfer discs to the fridge and chill for at least one hour, or overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C), and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- Working with one dough disc at a time, and leaving the other in the fridge, roll the dough out on a well-floured work surface to about ¼-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. (*See tips for this below!)
- Arrange cookie shapes on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the icing, whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add water a few drops at a time to reach the desired consistency; to hold its shape on the cookies, the icing should be fairly thick. As a test, if you drizzle a bit with the whisk, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. If the icing becomes too thin, simply add more powdered sugar to stiffen it back up. If desired, add liquid or gel food coloring.
- Decorate cooled cookies as desired. The cookies can be left uncovered for 24 hours while the icing sets and hardens, then stacked and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Cookies will keep this way for 4-5 days.
- *My best advice for cutting out the cookies is that if the dough is sticking or the cookies are breaking apart as you try to cut and lift them up, sprinkle more flour – on the work surface, on your rolling pin, on the dough itself, on everything! It’s pretty hard to overdo the flour at this point, and the process should NOT be overly difficult. If rolling/cutting is a struggle-fest, you need more flour!
- It also helps to roll out the dough a bit, then lift it up and flip over back onto the floured work surface before continuing to roll. This prevents the underside from becoming “glued” to the work surface when you try to transfer the cut-outs to baking sheets.
- To make-ahead.. baked, unfrosted cookies freeze well for 2-3 months. Simply thaw them overnight in the refrigerator, then decorate as desired.
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