Gingerbread Cookies (Pfefferkuchen)

Nothing says Christmas for my family like gingerbread, well for me at least. I directly associate gingerbread with tradition, family and culture. Pfefferkuchen which translates as gingerbread well, its the gingerbread we all know and love, rich with spices and molasses cut into cute little shapes and sometimes frosted or decorated. I’ve mentioned in the past that I do have a limited family, the background is not so rich with so many things, and that includes standing traditions.

Although we’re not great in numbers, I was lucky enough to grow up in a house that had plenty of food.  We were not a foodie family, but its that we did have a home cooked meal on the table every night. Its probably what began my life long love and admiration of food. Supper, or food in general was relief and comfort, a moment of peace among chaos. We ate pretty well on a military budget, and it was never really something I’d thought twice about. Now days I have a great sense of gratitude for what we had and what I have today. I really enjoy sharing traditional foods with my family and these traditional holiday cookies are the epitome of winter awesomeness.

Gingerbread Cookies: (Pfefferkuchen)

These are rich with molasses and spice, you can reduce the amount of molasses by substituting honey, corn syrup or brown sugar for parts of the molasses. I tend to prefer the somewhat bitter bite molasses offers to the cookie. I do alter this recipe from year to year though. Honestly its merely according to what I feel like doing at the time, or more specifically what I have at arms length. I will note swaps and suggestions for specific tastes following the basic recipe.

Wet Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter (melted)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
Dry Ingredients:
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (unbleached)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
  • A Pinch, Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (optional)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl combine wet ingredients and whisk to combine. If your brown sugar is clumpy you may want to run it through a sieve. Into the bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with all remaining dry ingredients and stir until fairly smooth. Using a wooden spoon or large metal spoon stir in the remaining 1 cup of flour. (don’t try using your rubber scraper…I’ve broken about 3 of them on gingerbread dough…you’d think I’d learned by now but nope, not yet.)

Once the dough is thoroughly combined divide into 2-3 balls. Place in plastic wrap and flatten into rounds. Place in the refrigerator to chill at least 2 hours. You can hasten the process by tossing it in the freezer about 30 minutes. Roll the dough out on a liberally floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Using cookie cutters cut the dough into shapes and place on a lined cookie sheet. If your dough is cool enough to handle easily you can use a pastry brush to remove excess flour. Bake for 8 minutes. You can re-roll the dough as often as you need, place it back into the fridge as needed to chill it back up. Keep in mind the more you have to combine the dough however the tougher it will get.

Icing and Decorations. I use icing in a tube for the perimeter of the cookies. Being the neo-homemaker I am its a bit discouraging to admit but I am not good at decorations or things that involve patience. For the “flooding” icing, or the icing that will go inside the perimeter of each cookie I use the standard gingerbread lemon icing. Its 1 cup powdered sugar to about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice/water as needed.