I have to be honest, I haven’t made gingerbread for years now. Sad but true. I decided maybe it’s time to revisit my favorite gingerbread recipe except I ran into to one problem – after all these years, it was no where to be found! That lead me to set off on a search of online recipes. As I looked through them, I found some excellent reminders and tips along the way so I put together a a list of excerpts from the experts on gingerbread making and baking best practices.
Gingerbread probably became linked to Christmas because in European winters, fresh produce was rare, so most sweets treats were based on dry pantry items that kept a long time (like flour and spices). Ginger is also said to aid digestion, so perhaps best eaten after a big Christmas meal? (Food24)
Picking The Right Gingerbread Recipe
When making gingerbread houses, select recipes with little or no raising agent, as these are less likely to spread. (Food24)
Making The Dough
You can use Pumpkin spice but – Pumpkin pie spice is heavy on cinnamon, where as gingerbread spice has a balance of cinnamon, allspice, and ginger (liveforcake)
If you want a darker, slightly more bitter cookie, try replacing the golden syrup with molasses. In general, recipes with less syrup and no egg tend to be crisper.
Do not over-mix the dough once you have added the egg as it will become quite sticky and difficult to remove from the bowl. If it does become sticky, just use a spatula to scrape the dough into a freezer bag and chill as usual. (relish The Ultimate Guide to Gingerbread)
Chilling cookie dough produces cookies with darker color and more pronounced flavor (Flourish: Does Chilling Cookie Dough: Does it Make a Difference?)
Most cookie dough can be refrigerated, well-wrapped, for three to five days before baking. If you want to make it farther in advance, freeze the dough (MyRecipes:How long can I keep cookie dough in the refrigerator before baking?)
You can make all the dough at once and then freeze the leftover for up to three months
(10 tips for making the best gingerbread)
Rolling The Dough
Dorie suggests rolling it out pre-chilling, but between two sheets of parchment paper instead of on a floured work surface. Sandwiched by parchment, your very-pliable dough has no chance of latching onto your rolling pin or your kitchen counter (Food52)
Chill your dough for at least 2 hours before rolling it out.(EatingWell: Expert tips for making the best gingerbread cookies) The dough is a lot easier to work with after some time in the fridge, making it less likely to stick to the rolling pin or your countertop.(Kitchn: 5 Important Things to Know About Making Gingerbread Cookies)
Once you have rolled out the dough, chill in the fridge for 10 minutes or more. That will give it time to relax and firm up which alleviates shrinkage and allows a clean cut Before you even begin cooking make sure everything is at room temperature including the eggs and butter,” she says. “Don’t over-beat the butter and sugar and don’t over-knead it. Just as the mixture comes together, stop kneading and let it rest(10 tips for making the best gingerbread)
Cutting Out Cookies
Keep cookie cutters from sticking to the dough by misting them very lightly with cooking spray(allrecipes)
Refrigerating the raw shapes before cooking can also help reduce spreading.
If you like your gingerbread on the crispy side, roll it to 1/4″ thick and bake for 11-12 minutes. If you like it nice and soft (though still very sturdy), roll the dough 1/2″ thick and bake for 10 minutes. If you play around with the thickness of the dough and the baking time, you’ll discover a cookie that meets your liking.(Bless This Mess)
When the gingerbread comes out of the oven, and while it is still hot, a glaze made from cooked potato starch and water is applied to seal it and give it a lovely golden colour.(Fortwenger The secrets of gingerbread)
Storing Baked Gingerbread
You can help keep freshly baked gingerbread cake fresh a little longer by storing it in the fridge, but it is not recommended because it dries out much faster there. Gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses should be stored in a tightly closed container on the counter or in the pantry.For a long-term option, you can freeze your gingerbread while preserving its taste and texture if you use an air-tight freezer safe container. Foods freeze indefinitely, but the quality does decline after the times indicated on the table (EatbyDate: The Shelf Life of Gingerbread)