One of my absolute favorite traditions from childhood is baking Christmas cookies. Both my mother and my grandmother went all out making recipe after recipe, and my sister and I were always there to help (bake and taste). We always had go-to classics and then a few new ones we'd try year to year. Some would stick around, others not so much.
Although it's a classic holiday cookie, gingerbread was never something we ate much of growing up. I guess no one in my family cared for it too much. To be honest, I really didn't like the taste of it growing up either, but I always loved how cute the little decorated gingerbread men were and I always wanted to make them.
So this year I was excited to gather the kiddos to make our first batch of gingerbread cookies -- a holiday tradition we will surely continue.
I prefer a simple powdered sugar glaze instead of a super decorated gingerbread cookie because of the simplicity and easy execution. It's fun for the kids to decorate with sprinkles, nonpareils and embellishments -- it's easy and it doesn't have to be perfect. Although, I must admit, they did have icing everywhere from head to toe when all was said and done.
As the saying goes about the cobbler's kids not having any shoes, I created this sweet little railroad strip toddler apron because the children's aprons we had in our line didn't even fit my tiny tots. The pockets are perfect for stashing these little gingerbread men and a spatula or two (and they're a great catch-all for sprinkles). We hang them on hooks in the kitchen, and the kids love grabbing the one that has their hand-embroidered name on it.
Of course, this recipe also works for gingerbread houses. That's a tradition I love as well. The kids will make their annual gingerbread house with grandma this weekend.
Holiday Gingerbread Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup unsulphured molasses
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon or orange zest
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375. Sift together flour, salt, ginger and cinnamon in a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to cream the flour and sugar together. Once the mixture is fluffy, add the egg, molasses and lemon or orange zest. Once ingredients are combined, slowly add in the flour mixture and mix at a low speed. Make sure all of the flour is incorporated -- the dough will be thick. Press or roll dough to approximately a 1/4 inch thickness and press gingerbread men cookie cutter, you will want the dough to be thick enough to hold the shape of the cookie when transferring to the cookie sheet.
A little trick I like do use is to roll my dough, and then transfer the whole flat of dough to the cookie sheet, then cut them on the sheet itself so I don't have to worry about ripping off an arm or leg in the process
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out with a floured rolling pin. Use cookie cutter to cut the dough into shapes. Then, place shapes onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Be sure that they are crisp, but not too dark.
Once cookies are cool, decorate to your heart's content. To make icing, combine all ingredients and mix until incorporated. Enjoy!
I'd love to know what your favorite Christmas cookies are to eat and to decorate! #HEIRLOOMED