I like these dark, spicy gingerbread cookies cut into people shapes and decorated with cinnamon red-hot candy eyes and mouths affixed with dabs of royal icing. For alternatives, refer to the directions and recipe for Classic Rolled Sugar Cookies for other decoration ideas using colored sugar and royal icing. If you like a crisper gingerbread cookie, roll these out a bit thinner and bake an extra minute. For a thicker, chewier cookie, follow the instructions and make sure not to overbake.
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 large egg
- Thick Royal Icing
- Cinnamon red-hot candies
1. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl.
2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes; beat in spices. Beat in molasses and egg, beating well after each. Add about one third of flour and mix on low speed. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing just until blended. Scrape dough onto large piece of plastic wrap. Use wrap to help shape into a large, flat disc, then cover with wrap. Refrigerate until firm; enough to roll out, at least 2 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
4. Roll dough out to ¼-inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut out ginger bread people or any other shape of your choice. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Place similar-sized cookies on same sheet.
5. Bake until just light golden brown around edges and the edges feel dry and firm to touch, about 12 minutes, depending on size. Cool in pans on racks for a few minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.
6. For decorations, place royal icing in a parchment cone, snip a tiny opening, and pipe small dots of icing where you would like the cinnamon red-hot candies to go. I suggest eyes and a mouth for both men and women. Then, give the men three candies down their fronts, like buttons on a shirt, and a string of candies around the women’s waists to define their skirts. Allow icing to harden and dry, which will act as glue for the candies.
Good Cookie Tip
To make particularly realistic, and adorable, gingerbread people, use a clean—very clean—garlic press to press out strands of hair with the dough. Brush the head area with some beaten egg, then arrange the “hair” as you like on their heads before baking.
For a Simpler approach to the decoration, place red-hot candies on the cookies before baking by just pressing into the dough. If you’re lucky, the cookie will bake around them and hold them in place, but this doesn’t always work.