This classic large batch honey gingerbread man cookies recipe combines the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to produce a soft, generously spiced Christmas treat.
Did you know that gingerbread men cookies were made to represent the foreign dignitaries visiting the court of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth I? The Queen was known for her elaborate dinners which featured a lot of dishes but the gingerbread man cookies obviously were quite popular. According to Michael Krondl, author of Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert – the man shaped cookies apparently came before the ginger spiced versions became popular. The earliest versions of this cookie actually imbibed flavors of honey, almonds or even rosewater.
Making Honey Gingerbread Man Cookies
My recipe is actually a juxtaposition of the past and the modern by borrowing flavor elements of honey and combining it with the traditional Christmas spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and obviously ginger. As with any recipe, having the correct equipment can either make or break the recipe experience. Let’s take a look at some of my equipment recommendations.
- Stand Mixer: There is a little bit of detail involved in making gingerbread cookies – having a stand mixer makes the whole process a lot less cumbersome.
- Spatula: The gingerbread cookie dough gets a bit sticky once it is fully mixed and blended for a few minutes in the stand mixer. I found that a spatula lets you get the last few bits of dough without getting yourself too dirty. This spatula actually comes in handy for future use too.
- Baking Tray(s): This is a large batch recipe for honey gingerbread cookies comes together quite easily if you have multiple trays. I found it easy to have some baking in the oven while cutting out the cookie shapes for the next batch.
- Hand Mixer (Optional): Stand mixers aren’t cheap. They are an investment that will usually last generations. A hand mixer will work just as well but remember you’ll have to be blending for a good while during the dough making process.
- Cookie Cutters: Cookie cutters come in different shapes and sizes now. The classic gingerbread man shape is always ubiquitous but there are other shapes popular now like fall leaves and even Star Wars shaped ones.
- Rolling Pin: I suggest getting yourself this adjustable rolling pin with removable rings. I have found it handy for making many recipes and it lets you make cookies with uniform thickness.
- Flour: All purpose flour is sold in two forms here in the United States – bleached and unbleached. I tend to use unbleached flour which has a marginal off-white color to it just by the milling process. Some companies may chemically bleach the flour to make it look whiter. Any unbleached flour with a medium to high protein content in the 6% to 10% protein range is better suited for cookies. Most store brands are in the medium protein range to be versatile for most recipes.
- Butter and Eggs: Most recipe developers will tell you that room temperature eggs and butter make the recipe taste and bake a lot better. I usually leave them on the kitchen counter for about an hour before using them. If in a hurry, then I place them in a bowl with warm water for about 10-15 minutes.
- Ginger: Ground ginger is the preferred ingredient in gingerbread cookies. Ground ginger is actually more concentrated than fresh ginger.
- Molasses: Use unsulfured molasses like Grandma’s Unsulfured Molasses which is made from real cane sugar with no preservatives or artificial flavors. Sulfured molasses has sulfur added to it to preserve the cane sugar.
- Honey: Store brand honey will work just fine for this recipe because this recipe doesn’t use much of it.
The key aspect of making large batch gingerbread cookies is to get the steps right to be as efficient as possible with the minimum amount of rework.
- The first thing I like to do with any baking recipe is to take the required amount of eggs and butter and leave it to cool down while I’m getting other ingredients ready.
- Add the butter and sugar to the stand mixer and run it in a medium-high speed for about 3 -5 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy.
- Then add the egg, molasses and honey and let it blend for an additional 3 minutes or so until the ingredients look well incorporated.
- While the wet ingredients are being blended, add the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg) to a mixing bowl and gently mix using a fork or wooden spoon.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and then slowly add the flour a portion at a time. Add a handful, let it blend for a few minutes and then add another handful. I’ve learnt this helps the ingredients mix well and helps the dough retain some moistness.
- Remove the blended dough and cover with plastic wrap. Chill the wrapped dough in the refrigerator overnight. Chilling time can be reduced to 1 hour if in a hurry.
- Let the chilled dough cool on the counter for about 30 minutes before cutting it into equal portions.
- Roll the dough, about 1/6inches thick using the adjustable rolling pin and cut into desired shapes using your cookie cutter.
- Transfer to a baking pan and bake at 350F for about 8 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool on a drying rack for a few minutes before serving.
PRO TIP: Place the chilled dough on a baking sheet so that cut portions can be transferred easily to the baking pan without breaking
Ground ginger can be substituted with fresh chopped ginger. However, don’t forget that ground ginger is more concentrated. Hence, the recipe would require almost 4 times as more fresh ginger.
Honey can be substituted with rosewater (in the same proportion) to give the cookies a more Mediterranean touch.
A great way to serve the cookies is to decorate it with royal icing. Any store-bought royal icing would do just fine. The plain honey gingerbread man cookies also work really well with my mocha frappe recipe.
If you would like an accompanying entrée, then the cookies are great to have after a Spinach and Egg casserole.
These cookies can be stored at room temperature in airtight container or plastic bag for up to two weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
The main reason for chilling the dough is to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin. It also helps maintain its strength when rolled flat without breaking into small bits.
Any light and unsulfured molasses will be ideal for baking gingerbread cookies because they tend to be sweeter and have lesser additives compared to black or sulfured molasses.
Honey Gingerbread Man Cookies
- Stand Mixer
- Baking Tray(s)
- Mixing Bowls
- Cookie Cutter Molds
- Rolling Pin
- ¾ cup Unsalted butter ,softened to room temperature
- ½ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Egg
- ½ cup Molasses
- 1 tbsp Honey
- 3 cups All Purpose flour
- ¾ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tbsp Ground Ginger
- ½ tbsp Ground Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
- Beat the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. If using a stand mixer, you will need to use the paddle attachment and run it in medium-high setting, for about 3 minutes. It can also be done using a hand mixer on medium speed.
- Add the egg, molasses and honey. Reduce the stand mixer speed to medium-low and continue to beat the mixture until it is well blended.
- In a mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg) and mix well using a whisk or fork.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the blended wet ingredients while continuing to beat it in low speed.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill overnight (or at least 1 hour if in a hurry).
- Let the chilled dough sit for about 30 minutes if chilled overnight. Then place the chilled dough on wax paper and cut into equal portions.
- Roll each portion flat (about 1/6inch thick) using a rolling pin. Cut out the desired patterns using a cookie cutter.
- Transfer the cut shapes to a baking tray and bake at 350F for 8 minutes.
- Let the baked cookies cool for a few minutes before serving.