Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Best holidays with delicious Gingerbread Cookies.
Too soon for gingerbread cookies? I hear everyone who put up their Christmas tree this weekend shouting, “No!” These are for you, my cinnamon candle-burning, Nat King Cole-playing friends. I appreciate your enthusiasm.
I usually get all bah-humbug Christmas baby this time of year, since the holiday completely overshadows my December 25th birthday if I’m not careful. I’m already planning my 30th birthday celebrations (with help, thankfully!) and have resolved to embrace the holiday cheer this time around. I might even put up a Christmas tree. A tiny one, with white Christmas lights. That sounds lovely.
I’ll probably make more batches of gingerbread cookies to share with friends this year, too, now that I’ve perfected the recipe. They’re so fun to make! I made a few simple substitutions to turn classic gingerbread cookies into healthier gingerbread cookies, without sacrificing flavor. The result is a dough that is remarkably easy to make (no mixer required) and manage (it might as well be Play-Doh!).
My substitutions include swapping coconut oil for butter, coconut sugar for brown sugar and whole wheat pastry flour for all purpose. All of those ingredients are becoming more mainstream now as their health benefits become more apparent.
Whole wheat pastry flour is one of my favorite subtle nutrition upgrades. It possesses all of the health benefits of whole wheat flour, but it’s more finely ground, lighter in taste and produces marvelously tender whole grain goodies. It’s a great substitute for all-purpose flour in cookies, pie crusts and in many recipes that call for baking powder and/or baking soda for leavening. (You don’t want to use whole wheat pastry flour in yeasted recipes, like pizza dough. It just won’t work.)
Sometimes I use half white whole wheat flour for some extra structure, but these cookies turned out perfectly with 100 percent whole wheat pastry flour. I don’t think anyone would be able to tell that these cookies are made with whole grain flour! They’re crisp, spiced and delicious.
You can control the level of spice and flavor intensity by carefully choosing your molasses. I tried a lighter molasses and blackstrap molasses. The light molasses produces cookies with lighter color and flavor, naturally. If you’re making these cookies for kids with sensitive palates, you might want to choose light molasses and maybe even use half of the spices specified below.
If you want dark, intense cookies with an almost dark chocolate-level of richness, use blackstrap molasses and the full amount of spices. Blackstrap molasses offers greater nutritional value as well, since both the flavors and minerals present in molasses are more concentrated. Who would have guessed that a by-product in sugar production could be so high in potassium, iron, Vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium?
You also have a few options when it comes to decorating your cookies. You could enjoy them plain, of course. They are not overtly sweet, though, and they look more festive with some decoration.
Options include sprinkling the cookie dough shapes with sparkling turbinado (raw) sugar or dusting them with additional coconut sugar before baking. You can ice them with the lemony icing offered below, which requires some powdered sugar (here’s how to make your own with less refined sugar) and/or sprinkle them with powdered sugar, which looks like snow. You could use a traditional royal icing, which calls for raw egg yolks and completely hardens on the cookie. Or, you could melt chocolate chips and drizzle chocolate on top. It’s up to you!
- 3 cups (310 grams) organic whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour, plus more for work surface
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup melted coconut oil
- ½ cup unsulphured molasses (use regular molasses for lighter, somewhat spicy cookies or blackstrap molasses for very spicy, intensely flavored cookies—or a mixture of both)
- ½ cup packed coconut sugar
- 1 large egg*
- Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest (optional, for intense lemon flavor)
- 2¼ teaspoons lemon juice