How do bakeries keep the shape of their gingerbread men so perfect?
My cousin’s ex asked me this two years ago. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think I have some answers.
Basically we’re back to the ever-popular-here-on-Zahlicious principle of aging.
Just forget about the dough.
If you want to decrease spread and puff whilst promoting better texture flavour distribution then you need to age your dough for a long time — 5 to 7 days.
This does two things. First, the dough will dry a bit, so it will set faster in the oven. Second, your leavener will no longer be active.
I know what you’re thinking. Why put leavener in in the first place if you don’t want it to work? Because chemical leaveners like baking powder and baking soda also promote browning. This quality remains unaffected by aging.
And there you have it, folks. Twelve days of Christmas cookies.
Classic Gingerbread Cookies
*adapted from Saveur
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
3⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1⁄2 cup unsulphured molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1⁄4 tsp. salt
Whisk together flour and baking soda. Set aside.
Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the spices.
Beat in the egg and then the molasses. Beat in the flour in several additions until a smooth dough forms. Do not over mix. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Form the portions into flattened disks. Tightly wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5 days.
If using molds, lightly oil them; preheat oven to 300F. Gently press dough into molds with your fingers; invert to unmold on a sheet pan. Trim edges with tip of a sharp knife. For cut-out cookies or gingerbread men, preheat oven to 350F. Roll out dough 1⁄8-inch thick on a floured surface and cut out. Bake until browned, 12–18 minutes.