I actually have 2 gingerbread cookie recipes that I like - this is the one which does not require fresh ginger.
**Photos coming later after I decorate them!**
This will make a LOT of dough - enough for 30 or so large cookies. You can easily halve the recipe if needed.
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup molasses
1. Combine the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; stir well to mix.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until well mixed (about 1 minute). Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and beater.
**There is no law saying you have to use a stand mixer for this! If you don't have one you can always make these by hand. Goodness knows people have been making cookies since long before KA mixers were invented (I do have to say, mine makes my life so much easier, though!!**
3. Lower the mixer speed and beat in about half the flour mixture. Beat in all the molasses, then scrape the bowl and beater. Add the remaining flour mixture, about a cup at a time, and beat after each addition until it has all been absorbed.
4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the dough a final mixing with a large rubber spatula. Scrape half the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press it to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Wrap the dough securely and repeat with the remaining dough. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days (I always let mine chill overnight).
5. When you are ready to bake the cookies, prepare the cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6. Unwrap one of the pieces of dough and cut it in half. Re-wrap the dough you are not using and return it to the fridge!
7. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick. Use a floured cookie cutter to cut the cookies. As they are cut, place them on the prepared pans about an inch apart in all directions. Repeat with the remaining dough. Save, press together, and re-roll the dough scraps.
8. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes (I only give mine 7-9 since my oven is a bit funny), or until they become dull and dry-looking and feel slightly firm when pressed with a fingertip. Slide the papers onto racks to cool. After the cookies have cooled they can be decorated with icing, candies, nuts, whatever you like.
9. Store cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
Great Gingerbread Icing Ideas:
*1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1-2 tbsp. water.
*1 cup powdered sugar combined with 1-2 tbsp. water plus 1/4 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger.
*2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 tbsp. milk.
*One I haven't tried but it sounds great - mix some melted white chocolate with a little lemon extract. I made a chocolate topping for Grand Marnier cupcakes which used 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped and 1/2 tsp. vegetable shortening. For gingerbread, I'd use 3 oz. white chocolate chopped, 1/2 tsp. veg. shortening, and 1/4-1/2 tsp. lemon extract. Melt the chocolate and shortening in a double-boiler. Place the melted chocolate mix in a large Zip-Lock bag and mix in the extract by squishing the bag. Snip a corner off the bag and use this to decorate the cookies. **You may need to play around with the extract amount - I've never tried this so I honestly wouldn't know how much to use! That amount is just a guess :)
This is the "Gingerbread People" recipe from Nick Malgieri's "Cookies Unlimited."
Tips for Rolled Cookies
I know how much of a pest rolled cookies can be so here's a couple tips to help make your life a little easier :)
*Chill the dough for an adequate amount of time. For these sugar cookies, I let mine chill for at least 4 hours. Patience is definitely a virtue when making rolled cookies!
*Keep dough that you are not rolling/cutting in the fridge.
*Flour your work surface, rolling pin, and cutters. You can always gently dust off extra flour using a pastry brush.
*Work with small pieces of dough at a time.
*Try rolling the dough between two sheets of either wax or parchment paper. You will still need a little flour on the paper but it will prevent the dough from sticking to your counter-tops, rolling pin, or cutting board.
*Remember, they are so worth it when they're all done and decorated! :)