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, whatever 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 in action.
Below you’ll find common fails and the corrective action for the next tray of cookies. My failed gingerbread piggies & deers will demonstrate the mistakes. I hope this guide will give help you to bake the kind of gingerbread cookies you want to.
1. The gingerbread cookie spreads in the oven
You dough needs more flour! When the baked gingerbread cookie is significantly larger than the cutter, it means the cookie has spread in the oven. Have a look at the deer shapes in above photo. 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 as the dough will also get firmer during the process of baking between rolling and re-chilling.
Always have a test bake. Chill a piece of wrapped dough and make a test bake. With the 80/20 rule in mind with total flour, you can make sure gingerbread dough has right texture before you cool it completely overnight. Use fresh flour.
2. The cookie has tiny spots in it
Same problem 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 above & read it counterclockwise to see the difference in flour consistency.
3. The cookie has random lump in it
A random bump here are there tells that the baking tray was not cool enough. If you bake with only one tray, chances are that the tray is warm when you add new dough shapes on it and this heat will active the baking soda before the cookie goes to the oven.
Please check the photo below. The fifth piggy has a random lump in the leg.
Always use 2-3 trays in rotation to make sure the baking trays are cold when new gingerbread cut-outs are transferred on it.
4. The dough shapes & cut-outs are a mess
The dough is too warm. Divide the cookie dough in pieces, the size of a handful or two. 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 of the dough, let it rest in the freezer.
Is there a 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 though the dough.
5. The dough sticks to the rolling pin and desk
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.
6. The baked color is a tad too pale
This could be due to 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 finish. My 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.
Lastly, uneven baked color can be a challenge with some ovens. Check the bottom of the cookie and if it’s lighter than the top, it might be better to bake the tray in the top section of the oven instead of middle rack.
7. The Edges of the cookie are dark/burned
When gingerbread cookies of different sizes are baked together, the smaller ones are ready earlier. To achieve steady bake and color, group cookies of same size on one tray together. See the little piggies in the below photo – the top three are too brown for my taste.
Also, sharp-edged cookie designs burn more easily. Confession: I have 5 star-shaped cookie cutters and the quest to finding the best one is still on.
8. Cookie stress
Gingerbread baking should be relaxed and fun, no need to stress. The test bake trays are for bakers to snack on and frosting will hide any beauty flaws in cookies. 😉
World is full of gingerbread recipes. Traditional Finnish gingerbread cookies (and Swedish and Norwegian) have a rather thin outlook and smooth texture instead of crinkles.
With this vintage gingerbread cookie recipe which I’ve inherited from my mother, you can achieve crispy yet tender cookies.