Taste of the season – Gingerbread 3 ways

Decorate your men with Royal Icing.“And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.” – William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost

Originally the term gingerbread referred to preserved ginger, but over time it has come to refer to a sweet bread or cookie flavoured with ginger and molasses (from Wikipedia). Gingerbread in various forms has been around for centuries, but the first gingerbread man is credited to Elizabeth I of England, who apparently presented important guests with gingerbread cookies created in their likeness (from Wikipedia).

When we think of traditional holiday flavours, for many of us gingerbread comes to mind.    Different areas in the world have their own variation of this sweet, spicy treat, and so if we compare our traditional recipes with that of our friends we would see this variety reflected.  My parents were born in the Netherlands, and so when I think of the holidays I think of Speculaas cookies which are traditionally baked by the Dutch for the Feast of Sinterklaas and the soft taai taai Sinterklass we would all get in our stockings.

Much of the fun in gingerbread is in the decorating – cutting out gingerbread shapes and decorating them with icing, sprinkles and whatever else suits your fancy.  Creating gingerbread houses is a tradition for many families at Christmas time, and brings to mind Hansel and Gretel and thoughts of edible houses… yum!  And who doesn’t have just a moment of pleasure biting off the leg or arm of those little gingerbread people.  “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!” — The Gingerbread Man

I decided to bake up 3 different variations on gingerbread for this blog post, and will share each of the 3 recipes with me.  The first is a traditional gingerbread cookie which I cut out into little gingerbread men.  The second is a drop gingerbread cookie recipe, and the third a gingerbread biscotti.

Gingerbread Cookies – Anna Olson


Gingerbread Cookies

  • Gingerbread Men

    1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 unit large egg
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Royal Icing for Iced Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder (available at cake stores and bulk stores)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • unit food colouring, as needed


Gingerbread Cookies

  1. Shape into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 2 hrs before rolling out.

    Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in molasses and grated ginger until evenly blended. In a separate bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients and add to molasses mixture, stirring just until dough comes together. Shape dough into 2 discs and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling.

  2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface.

    Preheat oven to 375 °F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disc to just over 1/8-inch thick.

  3. Cut out desired shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If using cookies as decoration, put a small hole where a string will go). Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until edges are firm to touch. Allow to cool completely.

Royal Icing for Iced Gingerbread Cookies

  1. Stir together all ingredients to blend, then beat with electric beaters on high speed until mixture is stiff, about 7 minutes. Tint portions of icing as desired.
  2. To store, keep icing tightly covered, with plastic wrap resting directly on surface of icing.

Decorate your men with Royal Icing.To Decorate Cookies

  1. Tools: Small disposable piping bags, variety of piping tips, including a small 1/8-inch plain tip, decorator sugars, sprinkles, candies…
  2. Pipe icing as desired on cookies.
  3. Have fun and play!

Big Soft Ginger Cookies – from Allrecipes.com


Big soft ginger cookies.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons demerrara sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Shape dough into balls and flatten slightly.

    In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and dip the tops  in the demerrara sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.

    Don't forget to give your cookies space!

  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.  These cookies freeze very well.  Take them out of the freezer and pop them in the microwave for a few seconds and they’ll taste like you just baked them!

Gingerbread Biscotti – from myownsweetthyme.com


Gingerbread biscotti

adapted from www.recipegoldmine.com

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
  • 2 Tablespoons minced candied ginger
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • white chocolate for drizzling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat together butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth and fluffy.  Add the eggs. When combined, blend in the molasses.
  2. Shape the dough into 2 flattened logs.

    Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper and chile powder until incorporated.  Fold in the candied ginger and nuts.

  3. Divide the dough in half and turn onto a lightly greased baking sheet. With greased hands, shape each half into a log approximately 3 or 4 inches wide and 1 inch high.

    Slice the biscotti after cooling for about 10 mins.

    Make sure the logs are at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven.

  4. Reduce heat to 300 degrees.  Cool Biscotti for 10 minutes then remove them from the pan and place them on a cutting board.  Carefully cut each log into 1/2 inch slices.

    Place sliced biscotti back into the oven.

  5. Place the slices back on the baking sheet, cut side down.  Place the baking sheet back in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the biscotti over and bake for an additional 10 minutes on the other side.  Remove from oven and let cool.
  7. Decorate with some melted white chocolate!

    When the cookies are cool, melt 1/4 cup or so of white chocolate. When the chocolate is smooth place it in a ziploc sandwich bag and seal the bag shut. Squeeze the chocolate into a lower corner and snip 1/8 – 1/4 inch from the corner of the bag. Squeeze the chocolate out onto the cookies in a zigzag motion for decoration.  Thicker, thinner – hard to go wrong with chocolate!

Gingerbread 3 ways - Mmmm!

So how did it all come out?  I have to admit that my favourite recipe above is the soft ginger cookie.  I love that they are quick and easy to make, since there is no extra time involved to chill and roll out the dough.  They have a great ginger flavour and a soft and chewy texture even when they are cool.  The biscotti are a new recipe for me.  The chili powder and candied ginger add a bit of a spicy bite to them, and the texture is perfect for dipping in your morning coffee.  The cutout gingerbread recipe is a good one too, with a crispy texture that is not too hard and a nice blend of spices that will appeal to everyone.

Thanks for coming along on this gingerbread adventure, and if you happen to come by for a coffee at my house in the next few weeks, just know that I’ll be serving gingerbread!

All photos by Anita Woo


About anitawoo

A photographer & mom with a passion for capturing life's moments with my camera.
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6 Responses to Taste of the season – Gingerbread 3 ways

  1. rita says:

    Mine always end up too hard, you have to eat them right away (not that that’s a problem), but not sure, am I putting too much sugar??

    • anitawoo says:

      I wouldn’t guess too much sugar, but you could try to substitute some of the white sugar for brown which has a higher moisture content. The other thing to try is pulling them out of the oven sooner – you may be just overbaking them a bit. Or try baking for a shorter period of time at a higher temperature – if your oven is not hot enough, the cookies may dry out as they bake for a longer period of time. And try the soft ginger cookie recipe – I guarantee they won’t be hard!

  2. These look great – I can’t wait to try the biscotti!

  3. The Hook says:

    Gingerbread rules! Great post!

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