Thursday, December 5, 2013

My very favorite gingerbread recipe

A sweet reader emailed me about my gingerbread house recipe the other day and I realized that I've never posted about it, which is a shame, because I found a keeper several years ago and I'd never even consider swaying.

gingerbread cookies
{gingerbread cookies}

I use the gingerbread house recipe from Martha Stewart and while I love her, I have issues with her site. The links change, recipes are edited or deleted and the site is hard to search and slooow. I can't be the only one who notices this, right?

I'm going to type out the recipe right here, in case the links disappear again. This recipe makes the very best gingerbread, for houses or cookies. It's spicy, easy to work with and quick to mix up. One batch will make enough dough for 5 small houses, using their template (really hoping that link never dies...) Our family used to make these enormous, absolutely gorgeous custom gingerbread houses and I cried a bit the first year I had to scale back to the small template. But as it turns out, most people find the smaller houses more approachable and kids are less likely to lose interest and run off halfway through the decorating. Serendipity?
Best Gingerbread Cookies (recipe from here, makes a ton of cookies, or 5 small houses) 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses
6 cups all purpose flour (1 lb 13.5 oz)
:: In a large bowl, shift or whisk together flour, baking soda and baking powder, set aside.  
:: In an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then beat in eggs and molasses.  
:: Add flour mixture in 2 - 3 parts, mixing on low speed until combined. To avoid a flour explosion, I wrap a dishtowel around the mixer to cover the opening of the bowl. If you're using a standard Kitchenaid, it will be pretty full here. Divide dough in thirds, shape into disks or rectangles and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least one hour, or up to a few days.  
:: Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a well floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8" thick. Cut out cookies (or house pieces). Place dough on ungreased baking sheets (I always use my Silpats, though). Pop the tray back in the refrigerator and chill for at least 15 minutes. This helps your cookies hold their shape better. Bake 15 minutes, until gingerbread is firm in the center but not dark around the edges. I bake a little longer for house pieces, because sturdiness is a high priority. I like my cookies chewier, so I bake them a little bit less. 

If you're making gingerbread cookies, you can leave them out at room temperature uncovered and they'll still be great for weeks* and the flavor is definitely improved if you can let them sit for at least a couple days.

If you're making gingerbread houses, let the pieces cool completely and then put them in ziploc bags until you are ready to assemble. You don't want them picking up any moisture from the air because it will make your houses less stable.

Last year I keep a draft post running while I prepped for the gingerbread house party, so that I could share it with you all because I sometimes get inquiries about GB house party logistics, which I take seriously. But then, for reasons mostly unrelated to gingerbread and entirely related to some family medical issues, the party ended up being very stressful for me and I just felt like I'd be a fraud posting about how awesome I am at throwing parties. Now that a year has passed I'm realizing that the post might actually be useful, so I think I'll dust it off and pop it up for you shortly. I'll make sure that it links to the various gingerbread tips I've given over the years, since they're currently scattered all over the blog.

* This will probably horrify everyone, but we almost always give out extra large gingerbread cookies on Christmas, cutely wrapped. A couple years ago I was getting out the wrapping supplies and found a cookie from the previous year in a gift bag. It still looked perfectly normal, so I ate a corner of it only as a test, for science. It tasted fine, and I didn't die. But I did throw out the rest of the cookie because I thought eating a year old cookie just seemed too desperate. I have a sweet tooth, but it hasn't come that yet, thank god.


  1. I'm sorry, but the story about trying out the year-old gingerbread cookie made me literally laugh out loud. Thank you for the recipe; I've been looking for more cookies to try out. :)

  2. Yum! I was just looking for a new gingerbread recipe!

  3. This is incredible, and if you weren't my hero already, eating the year-old cookie definitely put you up there.

    Also this just gave me the idea to create a gingerbread house kit to give as a secret santa gift. If I put the pieces in a bag after they're cool, how long will they stay useable for a gingerbread house? Weeks just like the cookies?

    1. Oh, I love that idea! As long as the pieces are in air tight bags, they should hold up really well. I've never tried putting the stained glass windows in and then storing them, but I still think it would work as long as you put them in bags. If you do put the windows in first, make sure to put a slip of parchment paper between each of the pieces. That way even if the candy gets a little sticky you'll be able to easily separate them.

    2. Yeah I forgot until I read today's post that they have GODDAMN WINDOWS!! So incredible! I'll be sure to let you know how it goes if I end up trying it.

  4. Looking forward to making houses this weekend!!! Side note: I absolutely love the fact that you at a little bit of that year old judgement, just plenty of giggles!

  5. Can you provide a link to a royal icing recipe you have used in the past?

    1. I don't have a tried and true one, but for years I just used the Wilton one inside the meringue powder carton - it's right here .
      I adjust with warm water as necessary and always add a touch of vanilla. For GB houses, you want it to be fairly stiff so you can hold decorating shapes easily but still soft enough that it isn't too much effort for inexperienced people to work with. It does need to beat for a long time even in the stand mixer!


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