When it comes to Christmas, gingerbread is a must-have. (Check out our complete baking guide.) Growing up, it didn’t matter if it meant decorating a house with every piece of candy we could get our hands on or carefully piping frosting eyes, a smile and buttons on cut-out people—decorating gingerbread was always one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions.
Since moving into my own home, I’ve wanted to keep this tradition going but never thought I had the time (or the baking skills!) to make the most important element: gingerbread cookie dough.
Luckily for me, Ree Drummond likes to keep things simple during the holidays, which includes her go-to gingerbread cookie dough. In her book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays, Ree even confesses that she’s “not the kind of mother who constructs three-dimensional gingerbread houses.” Instead, she and her family decorate house-shaped gingerbread cookies that they lay flat or prop up.
After reading through Ree’s recipe, I wasn’t immediately intimidated (though it did include more spices than I’d ever used in one recipe before). I decided to raid my grocery store of half their spices and whip up a batch of gingerbread.
Ree Drummond’s Gingerbread Cookie Dough
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon each allspice, ground cloves, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup margarine or softened butter (here’s how to soften it super quick)
- 1½ cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 cup molasses
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon maple extract
- Royal icing and assorted candies for decorating
While Ree’s recipe seemed like a fairly typical gingerbread cookie recipe (hello, ginger and molasses), two ingredients stuck out to me. The first was maple extract. I wondered if maple would bring an extra kick of sweetness or if it would end up being overpowered by all the other spices.
The second was the flour—not the fact that the recipe called for flour, of course, but how much it called for. With 6 cups of AP flour, I knew this recipe would bake up enough gingerbread cookies to last me the entire holiday season (and maybe a bit past it).
Taste of Home
Following A Year of Holidays, I combined the flour, salt and spices until well mixed and set aside.
Next, I grabbed my brown sugar and butter (here’s why I prefer it over margarine) and got whipping in a separate bowl. While the Pioneer Woman uses a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, I used my hand mixer with beaters. I was able to cream my ingredients into a sweet fluff just as well.
Pro Tip: If you’re feeling ambitious, cream by hand with a whisk—but be prepared for a workout.
In the same bowl, I poured in the syrupy molasses, maple extract and eggs. I beat the dough after adding each ingredient until it was fully incorporated. The dough looked glossy and slightly thin, similar to cake batter.
Taste of Home
Then came the tough part—not tough in technique, but tough in actual physical effort—adding the dry ingredients. To make it a bit easier, I added about a third of the flour mix at a time and beat until it was only just combined, which was good because my arm was getting sore. This is probably why Ree suggests letting a stand mixer do the bulk of the work!
At this point, the dough was very dense and easy to form into a ball.
Ree then says to take the dense dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for at least two hours, or longer, if you have the time. This step is important because it allows the dough to rest and will make rolling and cutting the dough so much easier.
Preparing to bake
After letting my dough rest, I preheated my oven to 350ºF and was ready to roll. Ree suggests rolling out your dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to avoid white spots that flour will leave on the dough, but since mine was still fairly chilled I didn’t need the additional anti-stick help that flour brings.
Taste of Home
Putting my holiday cookie cutters to work (I used this set), I stamped out my shapes and used a spatula to transfer the cookies onto a baking sheet. You can also take a page out of Ree’s book and make a 2-D gingerbread house by cutting out a house front by hand, or using the shapes on the first page of this template as a guide.
I slipped the pan in the oven to bake for about 13 minutes. You’ll know the cookies are done when the edges start to set and the dough springs back when poked (use a spoon to avoid burning your fingers!).
Prefer softer cookies? Simply pull them out a minute or two early, or leave them in for a few extra minutes for a crisper cookie. Just keep an eye on them to make sure the edges don’t burn.
When my batch was done, I transferred them to a baking rack to cool. (Don’t skip the cooling rack. It’s one of the important steps professionals always follow for best-ever cookies.)
The big reveal
Taste of Home
Even before pulling these cuties out of the oven, I knew they would be delicious because of how amazing they smelled. The scent of spicy ginger and sweet molasses filled my apartment only a few minutes after the first batch went in the oven, and it only got stronger with each batch.
The cookies themselves were nice and chewy. Plus, they were spiced enough that even when heavily decorated with royal icing details, the cookies weren’t too sweet. Perfect for cozying up on the couch with some hot cocoa or tea and watching Christmas movies.
The best part? These cookies were so easy to make! The most difficult part by far was having the self-control to not eat all of the cookies when they were still warm and fresh from the oven so they could cool and be decorated.
If you’re planning on making gingerbread for cookies or a house this holiday season, you should definitely consider this easy-peasy recipe that also tastes great.