Mr. Foodie and I are hosting an Oktoberfest party soon, and we’re gearing up by testing out recipes like our soft pretzels. In years past I’ve wanted to try a gingerbread recipe, but always felt intimidated by it (compared to my ginger molasses cookies or the American Gingerbread, it is time consuming). But this year I found a relatively easy recipe for gingerbread cookies and the royal frosting that one uses to decorate them. I found Gingerbread very interesting as I was rolling it out – not quite cookie, not quite bread in terms of consistency. I could see clearly how easy it would be to over work the dough and end up with those cardboard-like gingerbread cookies we know so well.
To my delight, they turned out well. Holding their shape on the outside, soft in the center, with a rather mild ginger spice flavor. I might amp that up a bit in the next batch to counter balance the rather sweet frosting. By themselves they are ugly looking, but tasty -reminiscent of fresh shortbread with a tingle of ginger and molasses.
Preparing the dough is similar to making a cake: cream sugar and butter together, alternate dry and wet ingredients, mix until it comes together. Then it becomes more bread-like: rest the dough in plastic wrap, roll it out on a floured board, cut the shapes and bake (thankfully, it is a short baking time of 8-10 minutes unlike a bread dough). Rolling it out was the hardest part. It cracked at the edges and it was difficult to reroll the scraps if you wanted to squeeze out a few more cookies. Even so, the cookies baked without spreading, keeping their shape while staying soft inside.
The frosting was a dream to prepare – three egg whites and vanilla extract whipped to a froth, add four cups of powdered sugar slowly until combined, whip fast until glossy, stiff peaks form. I did some cookies with the unwhipped, more liquid version of the frosting (the kind we let children decorate holiday cookies with) and I piped the whipped version. I probably could have whipped it a bit longer to be thicker for piping, but it did okay holding the shapes I piped. This frosting will harden on the cookie over time, making it easier to stack them or put them in containers. For the next batch, I will probably flavor the frosting with a little citrus extract (maybe orange to go well with the ginger/cinnamon) and dye some of the frosting for a little Oktoberfest drama!
As the original recipe suggests, I think this would make a fine dough for gingerbread house parts as well because of the stiffness of the exterior and how it bakes into shape. Or an alternative to sugar cookies for decorating!
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup dark molasses
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup water
Cream together brown sugar and softened butter until blended. Add molasses and blend until combined. Add the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time alternating with the 1/2 cup of water. Blend until dough forms. Turn out and press into a disc, then cover with plastic and let rest in the fridge for an hour. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out the cookies and put them on lined baking sheet, bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a rack completely before frosting.
Whip three egg whites together with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until frothy. Slowly add sugar while whipping slowly until combined. Increase speed of whipping until glossy stiff peaks form. Put into a piping bag and pipe onto cooled cookies.
Do you have a favorite gingerbread recipe? Or perhaps some suggestions for gingerbread frosting? Feel free to share with us.