Holiday recipe: The ultimate gingerbread cut-out cookies

“What is a holiday cookie plate without some decorated gingerbread cookies?” writes Dan Langan, introducing his recipe for gingerbread cut-out cookies in his new cookbook, “Bake Your Heart Out: Foolproof Recipes to Level Up Your Home Baking” (Union Square & Co., $29.99). Langan is a baker, blogger and host of the Food Network show, “Dan Can Bake It.”

This recipe produces dough that handles well. It’s ready to roll and cut in a single hour, and bakes up chewy or crisp, depending on your preference and baking time. Replacing some of the flour with powdered milk helps control how much the cookies spread during baking, without making them tough. The spice level is “fairly robust” in this recipe, according to Langan, but if you think it might be too much, you can decrease the amount of ground ginger a tad or use lots of royal icing to mellow the flavor.

Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies

Makes about 30 large cookies

INGREDIENTS

Cookies:

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks/170 g) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes and left at room temperature for 20 minutes

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (210 g) lightly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (43 g) dry milk powder, whirred in a blender if coarse

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1¼ teaspoons fine salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/3 cup (125 g) unsulfured molasses

1 large egg yolk (reserve the egg white for royal icing if desired)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2¾ cups (360 g) all-purpose flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Royal icing:

2 cups (240 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 large egg white (see Bakers Note below)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

“Bake Your Heat Out: Foolproof Recipes to Level Up Your Home Baking” by Dan Langan shares a collection of recipes including cookies, breakfast foods and cakes. (Courtesy Rikki Snyder/Union Square & Co.) 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, milk powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves. Mix on low for about 30 seconds to combine, then beat on medium until a smooth, stiff paste forms, about 2 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl and paddle, then add the molasses, egg yolk and vanilla and mix on low until combined, stopping to scrape the bowl as needed. Add the flour and mix on low until a crumbly dough just starts to form. Scrape down the bowl and paddle again, then continue to mix another 20 seconds or so until a rough dough forms. Knead the dough in the bowl 3 or 4 times to make a smooth dough.

Divide the dough in half and pat each portion into a 1-inch-thick slab. Wrap each dough slab in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (If the dough is refrigerated for longer than 1 hour, let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes or it will be too hard to roll.)

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

To roll the dough, sprinkle a sheet of parchment with a generous amount of confectioners’ sugar. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick, moving it around on the parchment after every couple of passes of the rolling pin to prevent sticking.

Cut out cookies with cutters, using firm downward pressure and fitting as many onto your dough slab as possible. Lift off the scraps, then use an offset spatula to transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about ½ inch between them. Roll out and cut the second portion of dough just as you did the first. Combine the scraps into a pile, pressing them together and kneading just a few times. Reroll the scraps and cut out a few more cookies.

Bake the cookies on the center rack, one sheet at a time. For soft cookies, bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until just darkening at the edges. For crisp cookies, bake a minute or two longer, or until the edges are golden brown. Let the cookies cool on the sheets, lightly gliding an offset spatula over the cookies to smooth out any air bubbles on the surface.

To decorate the cookies: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the confectioners’ sugar, egg white and vanilla. Add 2 teaspoons of water and whip on low to combine. When all the sugar is moistened, whip on high for 4 to 5 minutes until smooth, bright white and shiny.

Place the icing in a piping bag with a small open tip and decorate the gingerbread as desired. Allow decorated cookies to dry for 1 to 2 hours before stacking or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Baker’s Note

Two teaspoons meringue powder plus 2 tablespoons cold water can be substituted for the egg white in the royal icing. If you are not using your icing right away, cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and a layer of plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature for up to one week.

— Recipe reprinted with permission from “Bake Your Heart Out: Foolproof Recipes to Level Up Your Home Baking” by Dan Langan © 2023. Published by Union Square & Co. Photography by Rikki Snyder. ($29.99) 

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Author: Kate Bradshaw

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