I love making beautiful cookies—so much so that instead of a Christmas party, we host an annual cookie exchange party, for which I usually make way too many cookies. But my one shortcoming has always been in the stamped cookie area. They always puff and spread, and whatever the design was supposed to be ends up looking like it ate too many cookies itself.
However, now that I own just about every geeky cookie cutter you could want (Star Wars, more Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who—there are also these Star Wars gingerbread cutters, and I have a few 3D printed ones), I have a greater need for that sort of recipe. I also adore gingerbread, so a perfect gingerbread recipe it must be.
This week I combined a few recipes and tips online, and I think I’ve mastered the art. Or at least they came out pretty well, so close enough. This is a gingerbread with a bite, so if that’s not your preference, cut back the spices.
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I use the butter-flavored Crisco)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I prefer the Penzey’s blend)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
A few grinds of pepper (I use a Penzey’s blend of Tellicherry and white peppercorns)
Start by beating the butter and shortening together, then cream in the brown sugar. If you do it on a lower speed, you’ll incorporate less air, which will help with the spreading problem when they’re baking. Add in the molasses and egg.
Now this is the part where recipes usually tell you to sift all the dry ingredients together. I’m going to be honest with you. I am lazy. I have a really great sifter that was my grandmother’s, and it’s just going to hang right there on the hook looking awesome. I dump in all the flour, then sprinkle the other things all over it, and so far this method hasn’t resulted in a giant bite of baking powder. I know it’s not the “right” way, but we’re busy people, right? I also let the paddle on my KitchenAid do all the work because, again, lazy. So lazy.
You’ve got yourself a ball of dough, so wrap it up in some plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Watch a movie. Have a drink. Whatever. Because it needs to stay there until tomorrow. Heck, you can even leave it an extra day. Let it get good and cold.
When you’re ready to roll it out, skip cleaning the counters or getting out the mat. Roll it out directly on the cookie sheet. (Side note, this is where I discovered my shiny new cookie sheets did a much better job of letting the dough and later the baked cookies go than the exact same cookie sheets that are older. They’re not even non-stick. But the newer ones clearly performed much better.) Cut the cookies on the sheet, and you won’t have to try to move them without stretching them out of shape. Peel up the extra dough and repeat.
Put the sheets with the cookies back in the fridge for at least an hour until they’re good and cold again. Then preheat the oven to 350°F and bake them for about 10 minutes. Bam. Cookies. Delicious. Eat.