Gingerbread cookies are one of our favorite holiday traditions. These adorable sweet-and-spiced confections date to the 16th century, when Elizabeth I of England would host elaborate royal dinner parties. Her signature touch was a royal gingerbread maker, who was tasked with creating gingerbread men to look like her guests for the night.
Though the connection between gingerbread men and Christmas is not completely certain, the popularity of gingerbread during the holidays can, at least in part, be attributed to the belief that spices heated you up in the winter. These spiced Gingerbread Men Cookies do, in fact, provide a welcome warmth: from the scent wafting through the kitchen as they bake, to the laughter of your kids as they adorn them with candy and frosting.
Homemade gingerbread cookies do require a bit of planning, because the dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for several hours in order to firm up the fats, making it easier to roll out. However, the recipe itself is easy, and the bake time is less than 10 minutes.
Here’s our favorite recipe for how to make gingerbread cookies:
- Mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl
- Beat the butter and brown sugar in another large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy
- Add the molasses and egg, and beat well
- Gradually beat in the flour mixture on low speed until well mixed
- Press the dough into a thick flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight
- Once the dough is cool and set, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured work surface
- Cut the dough into gingerbread men shapes (use at least a five-inch cookie cutter for an easy-to-decorate size). Place them an inch apart on ungreased baking sheets
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are set and just begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets for a minute or two, then move to wire racks to cool the rest of the way
- Once the cookies have fully cooled, break out the frosting, icing, candy, and other decorating accoutrements
Homemade baked gingerbread cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to five days.