Stenciled Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

It’s time to think about holiday baking—or work ahead and start storing or freezing some of the sturdy treats. Everyone has their favorites but there is always room to mix it up and add a new goodie or a variation to the dessert table.

Here, classic flavors of gingerbread are made into grown-up shapes and decorated with stenciled powdered sugar. I know I always feel a little bad chomping on gingerbread people—yes, I know they’re just cookies, but their little smiles and buttons and… Well, rounds bedecked with whatever designs you favor are very civilized. The smooth, dark brown surface of these cookies is ideal for stenciling using powdered sugar. Stencils with holiday motifs can be purchased at craft stores, or you can make your own using card stock.

If possible, grind your own spices for the ultimate gingerbread taste, suggests cookbook author Georgeanne Brennan, who contributed this recipe to Real Food. Freshly ground spices are vastly different than already ground or powdered spices. Investing in an inexpensive coffee grinder to use exclusively for grinding whole spices will make it easy to maximize the spices in your cookies and other dishes, notes Brennan. Store the whole spices (such as clove, nutmeg, mace, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel seeds and others) in airtight jars or tins up to six months, and grind only what you need.

If you want to bake ahead, these cookies can be stored carefully in an airtight container for about two weeks. (See instructions in the last step of recipe for details.)

And a little bonus for your efforts—as these cookies bake, your kitchen will be filled with their deliciously spicy aroma.

Stenciled Gingerbread Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 c. light brown sugar
12 c. light molasses
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
14 tsp. freshly ground cloves
12 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon stick
12 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. freshly ground ginger
12 tsp. sea salt
14 to 13 c. whole milk
1 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses until well blended. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt, and whisk until well-mixed.

Add half of flour mixture and beat until well-blended. Beat in 14 cup milk and add in remaining flour mixture, beating well. Dough will be very stiff. If so stiff that it is crumbly, add 1 tablespoon milk and beat.

Gather dough and press together with your hands into a ball. On a floured work surface, pat ball into a 2-inch-thick round. Using a floured rolling pin, roll to a generous 14 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter 212 inches in diameter, cut out rounds and, with a metal spatula, transfer to baking sheet.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes, until puffed and spring back when pushed. Let cool on sheet a few minutes before removing with a metal spatula to a flat surface. Let cool to room temperature before decorating.

To decorate, place a cookie on a clean work surface covered with aluminum foil. Place stencil over cookie, using pieces of card stock or other firm paper to cover any exposed cookie.

Put 3 tablespoons powdered sugar in a fine wire mesh strainer and place over cookie. Gently tap strainer and cover entire surface of stencil with a fine layer of sugar. Set aside strainer. Gently remove card stock, lifting straight up. Lift stencil straight up, taking care not to tilt sugar onto cookie. Remove cookie to a flat surface or wire rack.

Arrange cookies in a single layer on a platter and cover loosely with wax or parchment paper. They will keep up to 3 days at room temperature. To store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks, line container with wax or parchment paper. Place cookies in single layer. Top with a layer of wax or parchment paper and repeat. Decorations may smear if not stored carefully.

Nutrition info Spicy Gingerbread Cookies (Per Serving): Calories 150 (36 from Fat); Fat 4g (Sat. 3g); Chol 10mg; Sodium 108mg; Carb 27g; Fiber 1g; Protein 2g

Want more gingerbread ideas? Check out my past post featuring Very Gingery Gingerbread. It also includes a link to a scene from the movie Shrek involving interrogation of the gingerbread man. I know, they’re just cookies. I must get over it. But this one is cute and he talks.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.