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Gingerbread Cookie Help Guide

by Saara

Have you had challenges making classic smooth and tender gingerbread cookies? The cookies did not come out as wanted but you’re not sure where the trouble was? Sweat no more, this Gingerbread Cookie Help Guide is here to save you.

Gingerbread cookies are irresistible and I’m pretty flexible when it comes to snacking them, I eat whatever Christmas cookie is on the table basically.

But when I bake with my heirloom gingerbread cookie recipe, I want the cookies not only to be tasty but also feel and look amazing. In this post, I will break down how to read a gingerbread cookie and troubleshoot your baking.

Below you’ll find common fails and the corrective action for the next tray of gingerbread cookies. My failed gingerbread piggies & deers will demonstrate the cookie issues. I hope this guide will give help you and give you the confidence to make your best gingerbread cookies ever.

The Ultimate Gingerbread Cookie Help Guide to save your Christmas

Gingerbread Cookie Help Guide

  1. The gingerbread cookie spreads in the oven
  2. The cookie has tiny spots on it
  3. The cookies are lumpy and bumpy
  4. The dough shapes and cut-outs are a mess
  5. The dough sticks to the rolling pin and the baking desk
  6. The baked gingerbread cookies are a tad too pale
  7. The edges of the cookie are burned
  8. I have Christmas cookie stress

1. The gingerbread cookie spreads in the oven

When this happens, the simple fix is that you need to add more flour. When the baked gingerbread cookie is significantly larger than the original cutter, it means the cookie has spread in the oven. Have a look at the deer shapes in the below photo on the right. Just add more flour and bake another test cookie.

Repeat if necessary but do not overwork the dough too dry especially if you have a batch of 2 kilos. The dough will also get firmer during the process of baking we the cookie mass is rolled, re-chilled and rolled again.

The rootcause is the same mentioned as above. Tiny pores and spots in the cookie reveal that the dough has too little flour. If this happens with the cold dough on the day of baking, do not worry. Work each piece of cold dough at the time and gently work more flour to the dough.

Have a look at the photo below where I have collected piggies from several different bakes. Can you see how the pores and spots disappear when there’s more flour in the dough?

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Gingerbread Cookie Help Guide

3. The gingerbread cookies are lumpy and bumpy

A random bump here and there tells that the baking tray was not cooled enough. If you bake with only one tray, chances are that the tray is warm when you add new dough cut-outs. This heat will activate the baking soda before the cookie goes into the oven.

Please check the photo above. Can you see that the fifth piggy has a random lump in the leg? That’s because of using a warm baking tray. I recommend having 2-3 trays in rotation. This way make you can make sure the baking trays are cold when new gingerbread cut-outs are transferred on it.

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4. The dough shapes & cut-outs are a mess

This means that the dough is too warm. Divide the cookie dough into pieces, the size of a handful, or two max. This way you have some of the dough in the cold for re-chill and some in action on the desk. If in haste with the last piece dough, let it rest in the freezer.

Also, is there such a thing as “wrong cookie cutter”? For sure but it’s always a good habit to lightly dip the cutters in flour before pushing through the dough.

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gingerbread shapes

5. The dough sticks to the rolling pin and desk

Again, the dough is too warm. Check the tip above plus remember to lightly flour desk and rolling pin every time with a new piece of dough.

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flouring the rolling pin when baking gingerbread cookies

6. The baked gingerbread cookies are a tad too pale

This could be due to a few things. Did you use baking powder instead of baking soda? Gingerbread cookies with baking soda will brown more.

The color of syrup will affect the finished baked color. My classic gingerbread recipe uses dark syrup. Some of the granulated sugar can also be substituted with unrefined coconut sugar or cane sugar. I have not used molasses with this recipe but you can.

Lastly, uneven baked color can be a challenge with some ovens. Check the bottom of the cookie. If it’s lighter than the cookie’s top surface, it might be better to bake the cookies in the top section of the oven instead of the middle rack.

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7. The Edges of the cookie are dark/burned

When gingerbread cookies of different sizes are baked together, the smaller ones get ready earlier. Makes sense? To achieve a steady bake and color, group cookies of the same size on one tray together. See the 5 little piggies in the below photo on the right – the top three have darker edges and a bit too baked color affecting also the taste.

Moreover, avoiding sharp, narrow-edged cookie-cutters can cause issues because these designs burn more easily. Yep, some star cutters are a nightmare. I have collected five different star-shaped cookie cutters and the quest to finding the best one is still on.

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Baking gingerbread cookies should be relaxed and fun. In my childhood making cookies was a joint family event where some people stressed and others didn’t. I luckily avoided the famous Christmas stress. By making this guide, I hope to help you enjoy baking stressfree Christmas cookies.

The test bake trays are for bakers to snack on, it’s a process. And frosting will hide any beauty flaws in the cookies. ;)

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baking photography

The world is full of gingerbread cookie recipes. These photos display traditional Finnish gingerbread cookies which recipe you can find from the link below. Many Nordic gingerbread cookies have a rather thin outlook and smooth texture instead of crinkles.

These Finnish gingerbread cookies are crispy yet tender. The secret to succeed with them is this: always have a test bake when you make the dough and before chilling it overnight. Quickly chill a small piece of wrapped dough in the freezer and make a test bake. Read the results and adjust flour. Use fresh flour.

With the 80/20 rule in mind with the total flour of the recipe, you can make sure gingerbread dough has the ideal texture from the start before you cool it completely overnight. Of course, you can re-work the overnight rested dough as well but it requires a bit more muscle work. Save time and make a test bake.

Try this vintage gingerbread cookie recipe which I've inherited from my mother.

Happy baking!

Love, Saara

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1 Comment

Classic Gingerbread Cookie Recipe| Paraisten piparkakut | My Vintage Cooking 2019-12-16 - 3:22 PM

[…] In this second post, I have detailed showcase photos on how to read a gingerbread cookie. Yes absolutely you should understand why your gingerbread cookie looks like the way it does so that you can troubleshoot as you bake. Gingerbread cookies are pretty flexible and not hard at all when you understand the recipe. […]


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