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Grandma Maude’s Great Big Soft Gingerbread Cookies

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These are the Real McCoy!

The biggest, fattest gingerbread men, ever! Perfect for that late night snack with a cup of homemade apple cider.

Grandma Maude used to make these cookies, often, but not in the shape of gingerbread men. She would make huge rounds of this gingerbread and then slather each with a generous amount of butter icing with orange zest in it. This is the flavour of fall in Alberta. Then I started making them for Christmas. My first attempt was a house. It was the biggest, fattest house you ever saw. It took me forever and I never made another. After that, the recipe was destined to gingerbread men. I made them for my students when I taught elementary school and we would nibble on them as I read the story about the gingerbread man all chanting together: Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!

I still chant that when I make my cookies. Doesn’t everyone?

Truly, this is the best recipe you will find for these cookies. It is not sweet and it truly a bread type of cookie. The icing takes this traditional treat to a whole other level. We are addicted to them in my family. Every year, we must have these at Christmas. They are so wonderful in the morning or any time of day… with milk, coffee, tea, and cider!

Here are your pictorial instructions. I used the Thermomix and folded the flour in ny hand, but the instructions for making them in the traditional manner are also below.

Cream your room temperature butter and sugar.

Add the egg and the molasses.

Add the wonderful spices.

Don’t for get the salt.

Add the baking soda to the sour milk; add the vinegar, next, and stir.

Pour the sour milk with the soda and the vinegar into the mixture and mix together.

Transfer the batter to a bowl.

Add four cups of flour and fold into the batter.

You will see the batter is still sticky.

Add the fifth cup of flour and fold into the batter.

The batter should become a dough and will easily hold its shape without being too sticky.

I can form a ball with it though it does stick to my fingers. This is the correct consistency. Not too sticky. Wrap it up and chill it until firm enough to roll.

Roll on a lightly floured surface and cut into shapes; bake for 10 minutes at 350°F. If the cookies are really fat (thick) it may take 12 to 13 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven. They will not indent when you touch them when ready to come out.

Somebody is excited to have some playmates!!!

Now, this is what I am talking about.

What I do to ice these is to chill the icing after making it. Then I used powdered sugar on parchment paper and another on top to roll out the icing to a thin layer. Cut it out the same shape as the cookie, remove the excess icing, and refrigerate again. Remove from fridge and peel the form away from the paper. Brush the cookie with water or sugar water and lay the layer of icing on top of the cookie, pressing in and twisting it a bit to ensure it adheres.

Below, left, is a pile of icing forms layered between parchment.  Right… Run, run, as fast as you can….!

So big and fat and yummy!

The adult verstion is a little different. Extra orange zest and you have a lovely fragrant cuddle on your plate.

5.0 from 2 reviews

Grandma Maude’s Great Big Soft Gingerbread Cookies
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

This recipe has been in my family for generations. It is a big fat soft, not crackly, cookie that is truly a cookie-bread as it is not at all sweet without the icing.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookie
Cuisine: Canadian
Serves: lots

Ingredients
Ingredients for the cookie:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup shortening ( I use butter)
  • 1 cup molasses (I use the dark “Old Fashioned” molasses, not the “Fancy”)
  • 1 cup sour milk (sour it with a Tbsp. vinegar)
  • add 2t soda to sour milk just before adding to batter
  • add 1t soda into vinegar just before adding to batter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (you may need an extra one if you need to sour your own milk by adding a tablespoon of vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg (but I added a teaspoon)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 cups flour
Ingredients for the Icing:
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1 cup soft butter
  • zest of one or two oranges
  • enough orange juice to mix into a fondant or play dough type consistency

Instructions
Instructions for the cookie:
  1. Cream shortening and sugar
  2. Add molasses and egg, and continue to cream mixture
  3. Add two teaspoons of soda to the sour milk
  4. Add one teaspoon of soda to the tablespoon of vinegar
  5. Add milk, vinegar, spices, and salt to the molasses and egg mixture
  6. Move the batter into a bigger bowl, if necessary and fold in the flour
  7. Refrigerate batter one hour, or over night to enable a rolling consistency
  8. Remove dough from refrigerator and pre-heat your oven to 350 F
  9. Roll dough between two pieces of very lightly floured parchment paper
  10. Cut into shapes and carefully move each shape onto a parchment covered cookie sheet
  11. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the bottom is light brown and the cookies are puffy on top (the cooking time will depend upon how thick you have cut them)
  12. For really big, fat gingerbread men, leave dough about ½ inch thick (much thinner for other cookies) and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
  13. Ice with Orange Butter Icing
Instructions for the icing:
  1. Mix all of the above ingredients until well combined and the consistency of fondant or play dough
  2. Chill for 15 minutes
  3. Roll some thinly onto parchment paper, and refrigerate again for 10 to 20 minutes
  4. Cut into the same shape as the cookie, lay onto the cookie (you may need to brush the cookie with a bit of sugar water for the icing to adhere (it will depend upon the temperature in the room)
  5. Decorate the layer of icing on the cookie
Instructions for the Thermomix:
Instructions for the cookie:
  1. Scale sugar and room temperature shortening into the TM bowl; insert butterfly and cream for 2 minutes at speed 3-4 (shortening must be room temperature or the butterfly may be damaged)
  2. Scale molasses into TM bowl and add the egg; continue to cream mixture or 30 seconds at speed 3-4
  3. Add two teaspoons of soda to the sour milk
  4. Add one teaspoon of soda to the tablespoon of vinegar
  5. Add milk, vinegar, spices, and salt to the molasses and egg mixture in the TM bowl; combine for 10 seconds at speed 2-3
  6. Remove the butterfly; clean all ingredients off of it and place into the TM bowl
  7. Scale in 4 cups of the flour; combine slowly from speed 0-7, until just combined
  8. Move the batter into a bigger bowl to knead in the remaining flour
  9. Continue with the recipe above at number 7

Notes
I have actually done a taste test using all three kinds of molasses and the very best flavour, colour and texture was developed by using the darkest and most bitter molasses.

 

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About Valerie Lugonja

Educator, Writer, Gardener and Traveler who believes in buying and eating locally, and most importantly cooking at home!

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  1. These are gorgeous looking gingerbread men! Love the last picture :)

  2. Oh Valerie, I swear I can smell them. I love these guys, they are absolutely adorable. If I can find a spare afternoon, I will be making these. Nothing is tastier, or smells nicer, than warm gingerbread cookies.

  3. Valerie, these little guys are on my list as soon as exams are over! I was just telling Charles I wanted to make some chewy gingerbread cookies, so great timing with this post! Lol! Thanks for sharing!

  4. these really are the best!! i make them every year myself. of course, my icing and deocrated cookie look nothing like these. i will attempt the fancy icing trick this year. i think the one difference in my recipe is i use sour cream vs sour milk. here is a link to my blog where i posted on the cookies: http://leavingcrumbs.blogspot.com/2009/12/soft-gingerbread-men-is-my-great.html

  5. Valerie, these seriously were the biggest gingerbread men I had ever seen. I actually appreciated the fact that they were thicker cause I like my cookies chewy rather that hard and crispy. K has been afraid to eat hers. She doesn’t want to break her gingerbread men so she’s been munching on the other cookies instead. Lol. I just gave her and L some cookies for dessert. The icing was wonderful! It wasn’t too sweet and melted satisfyingly in your mouth. I can see why this is a family favorite. The orange zest paired with the gingerbread was a perfect combo. The OCD in me loves your tip on chilling the icing and then cutting it out with the mold. Everything matches smoothly and perfectly. Thank you for sharing this wonderful family favorite with us, Valerie. K now has gingerbread men/(giants) to go with her gingerbread house. Haha. I’ll be sure to get my hug tomorrow ;-)

  6. They look soft, fluffy and delicious!

  7. this post made me smile… it looks like it’s fun to make ‘em. love the fluffy looking gingerbread men!

  8. These festive!big! fat! gingerbread look so wonderful! They sure make a Christmas basket nicer and merrier!

  9. These look so good Valerie that i would love to try them. Just à question on the ingredients. I assume à c is à cup, but is à T à teaspoon or à tablespoon?

    • Sorry, Simone: a T is a Tablespoon and a t is a teaspoon… I must watch this when I copy my recipes. Let me know how it goes for you! I love them! And grandma would be thrilled to hear you are making them! :)
      Valerie

  10. I could swear I smelled the fragrance of ginger when I started reading this post Valerie. It evokes many Christmas memories.

  11. These gingerbread men could catch me anytime!! Love how puffy & BIG they are. The butter frosting with orange zest is the perfect pairing to such a wonderful holiday cookie recipe. Sounds like grandma was onto something ;) XO

  12. These are so super cute and I love how thick they are! Truly perfect gingerbread cookies.

  13. Wow, your gingerbread men are incredible! There’s nothing quite like a nice gingerbread cookie for the holidays and yours definitely look like the ultimate recipe. And thanks for sharing your method for icing the cookies, it yields perfect results!

  14. I’ve been looking for a gingerbread recipe. This looks like an excellent place to start!

    Do you happen to have a recipe for gingersnaps too? My next experiment is going to be triple gingersnaps (ginger powder, grated ginger & candied ginger all in the snap). But, I need a good base to start off of.

    • Christan, I do NOT yet have a family favourite snap recipe, but my mom does. She is STILL the one always making these and I have been harping at her giving me the recipe. I will send it to you! :)
      Valerie

    • Christan – here it is!

      3/4 c shortening,
      1 c sugar
      1/4 c molasses
      1 egg beaten
      2 c flour
      1/4 tsp salt
      2 tsp soda
      1 tsp cinnamon
      1 tsp ginger
      1/2 tsp each cloves & nutmeg

      Roll in balls size of walnut , roll in sugar & bake @350 11-14 min. Never over bake a cookie.

  15. Awesome! I just love how PUFFY they are. I wish I was the squirrel!

    • Sommer! The squirrel? That is Beavie! My “eager beaver” alter ego… and our national Canadian animal… good thing he is not reading these comments or he would surely go “squirrelly”! :)
      XO

  16. They are huge and puffy and adorable! The orange-flavored icing sounds like a perfect match to the gingerbread. I have a favorite gingerbread recipe that I usually make but I’m going to try this one too!

    So funny, I used to teach second grade :)

    Okay, so how do I get your posts delivered to my email box? I’ve signed up for your newsletter but don’t get your posts.

  17. They look absolutely darling. I love the shape they have to them when they cook. Its like they want to pop off the baking sheet. I can imagine the hours of fun I’d have decorating them. Beavie certainly looks like he’s enjoying himself. Hmmm… wonder if i can make a big Mr P size one :D
    *kisses* HH

  18. This is another great reason I love coming to hang out on your blog for awhile. I don’t think I’ve made a gingerbread man let alone a giant one like this. Awesome stuff.

  19. These look unbelievable, Valerie! They really are impressive looking, and the recipe sounds so good. I’ve never seen one with that much molasses-that’s nice;)

  20. These are so adorable! Love the orange-flavoured icing!

  21. Delicious looking cookies, I love the gingerbread man shapes! Thanks for the excellent step by step instructions and photos!

  22. oh Valerie, a perfect recipe for the holidays, I love how plump your little men came out, and zested orange/.DIVINE!! beavie is super lucky to feast on these fab cookies, thanks for sharing!!

  23. I have been reading through all sorts of dessert posts this evening~ I really have a sweet tooth now! Especially after finding this post. Gingerbread is one of my favorites this time of year. The orange icing sounds fantastic with them!

  24. I know I am coming here when I am ready to make gingerbread cookies!

  25. What kind of vinegar are you using in the recipe?

  26. OMG..I’m making them right now for my daughter’s class…it’s our turn to bring snack tomorrow…I couldn’t stop eating the dough!! So tasty, and not super sweet, like you mentioned. I have a feeling these are going to be a hit!! and the icing…good lord in heaven….

  27. Thank you Val for sharing the recipe – and making use of the thermomix! I haven’t been using mine as often as I should – now, here’s the perfect recipe to get back into thermomix action.

  28. just made mine for christmas 2010. still need to figure out that icing so mine can look as pretty as yours. at least i have the taste down!

  29. Loved this post…you’re really getting me in the mood for Christmas cookie baking. Your instructions were very welcomed indeed ;o) My sister-in-law will love these!
    The little men are as adorable as the tasty ingredients socked into them. LOL

    Thanks Valerie for all this enthusiasm :)
    Claudia

  30. Oh wow…I love how thick and soft theses are. And they are beyond adorable :) That last photo is just too cute!

  31. These sound delicious, can I just ask however if ginger is meant to be listed twice as per below:
    “¢1t each of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger
    “¢1/2t ginger

    Thanks :)

    • Kate!
      Thank you – I will fix that now… I thought I had… again, it is
      “¢1t each of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger
      “¢1/2t nutmeg (but I added a teaspoon_
      Thank you so much for pointing it out. I must have changed it without saving the change. :)
      Valerie

      • No worries – thanks for the clarification :)
        I have one more question if i may…

        Shortening…we dont use it much for baking in Australia and the most readily available is really hard. Can you suggest a substitue (such as butter) or will it ruin the texture/taste??

        Thanks again

        Kate

  32. What beautiful photos!! I love the one of the spices. You are so very talented! I wanted to thank you so much for all your Simmer comments. Very sweet. Really made my day.
    xo A

    • Dear Alex… I will be checking back for my answers and definitely am awaiting my request for your molasses cookie recipe! I ADORE your site and am THRILLED I found it. :)
      Valerie

  33. These look amazing! I can’t wait to share them :)
    Just one questions – I am confused about the soda and vinegar – do you add 1t of soda to the 1T vinegar then put it in the milk and then add another 2t of soda to the milk? Am I reading this wrong?
    “¢1 c sour milk (sour it with a Tbsp. vinegar)
    “¢add 2t soda to sour milk just before adding to batter
    “¢add 1t soda into vinegar just before adding to batter
    “¢1 egg
    “¢1T vinegar

    Thanks,
    Melanie

    • Thanks, Melanie…
      The vinegar you use to sour the milk, if necessary, is not listed in the ingredients. Then you need one Tablespoon of vinegar. You add 1 teaspoon of the soda into the one tablespoon of the vinegar just before adding it to the batter. You add the 2 teaspoons of soda to the sour milk before that, and add it to the batter. I hope this clarifies the process. It WAS confusing. :)
      Valerie
      I would love to hear how they turn out!

  34. Thank you! Actually, I guess it is just as written, but I just wasn’t sure – off to the kitchen : )

    • HI Melanie –
      No, I changed the recipe to be more specific after your questions – so NOW it is as written…. I THANK YOU! :)
      Valerie

  35. These are INCREDIBLE! Just like in the picture – THANK YOU!
    I’ve tried other recipes over the years and never had any success – have even had to just throw in the towel and throw it awayd, but these are great! The recipe is a gift and I really appreciate you sharing : )

    • Melanie!
      Thank you for the metaphoric HUG!!! Sharing is what this is all about, and then to hear back that you loved them and that the recipe worked – wonderful! I believe you are the second person that has told me that in the comments section of this recipe and that is why I write my site – well, half of why. The other half is to have the same experience you just had with someone else’s recipe! Thank you SO much,! Merry Christmas and Happy Gingerbread Munching, to you! :)
      Valerie

  36. I want these too!! oxox

  37. Great recipe! I have Finally found a soft chewy gingerbread cookie recipe that i will be keeping!! The batter was taste tested by my 10 yr old and he can’t wait for more! Thanks for posting those colorful pics too it makes it easier to follow. Thanks:)
    Got any more great recipes?

  38. I’m really excited to try these. I’ve got the dough chilling in the refrigerator as I type this. I LOVE soft gingerbread cookies, but so many recipes lead to crispy gingerbread. I can’t wait to see how they turn out. I do have a question though. Your recipe states up to 5 cups of flour are needed to get to a consistency that’s not quite sticky. When I made my dough, it took 7 cups to get to that point. Prior to that it was far to sticky to try and wrap up. Have you experienced this before? I used unbleached all-purpose flour and it’s been cold, but dry here, so I don’t know that humidity had a lot to do with it. Anyway, the dough looks fine now and I’ll try baking some up later today. Thanks for passing this recipe along.

    • HI, Erik,
      I thought I had clarified this in the post – but please let me do this here in case I missed it. The reason the dough goes into the fridge is because it is sticky. I will say, that the location (sea level) and humidity will affect how much flour you use – but not usually by 2 cups (1/2 a cup at most). The best advice about this is already in the post with a photo above with my hand holding a ball of the dough: “I can form a ball with it though it does stick to my fingers. This is the correct consistency. Not too sticky. Wrap it up and chill it until firm enough to roll.” I know that you may have read and re-read this already, but this has been my experience, and I have used bleached, unbleached and 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat.

      I do wrap it up quite sticky in the saran wrap and when it is cold, with a dusting of flour on the counter, it rolls out beautifully and the cookies are lovely and soft.

      They are NOT sweet at all and definitely need the icing for that “cookie” taste.
      Please let me know how it goes for you. It is important that I am as clear as possible. It is a really wonderful recipe and I truly appreciate you trying it and asking clarifying questions. That’s what makes blogging so useful!
      :)
      Cheers,
      Valerie

  39. Valerie,

    I did bake up a batch from some of the dough today. Even with 7 cups of flour, they still turned out puffy and soft, just as I had hoped. You are right, they really need a frosting to get to the ‘cookie’ taste. I was unable to form a ball at 5 cups of flour, it was so soft and sticky it wouldn’t form a ball, just stuck to my entire hand. As I did try to follow your directions, I found I had to get to 7 cups to get to the consistency you showed in your post. I’m really not sure why, except to say that I’ve had similar issues in the past baking bread. It must be something to do with my location or ingredients, but I often find I need more flour than recipes such as this call for. That aside, this is a great recipe, thanks again for sharing it.

    • Erik!
      Really good to know. The important thing is, I guess, that you saw the photo and worked to get that consistency. I am always learning and am truly surprised it took you that much more flour, but so glad and grateful to hear it worked for you and that the cookies are soft and lovely. To me (and all of my friends and family) they are divine with the orange butter icing. Thanks for the cyber baking together moment today! :)
      Valerie

  40. What great photos. I can’t wait to try this recipe. I have been trying recipes for years for the perfect gingerbread man and this may be it. They are either crispy or flat or tasteless. Thanks for sharing and all of your hard work posting it.

  41. I just wanted to leave a comment, because often people only comment about how good the recipe sounds or after making a recipe when something didn’t work. I wanted to say hand down this worked perfectly!

    I made the dough tonight, using your suggestions on butter, and a full teaspoon of nutmag. I used buttermilk, fancy molasses, “the other options weren’t available to me.” and whipped it all up in my good old kitchen aid mixer ;)

    Everything turned out just as you described, the dough tastes great AND I did a test ball which baked out amazing! I now have the dough chilling for proper rolling and baking tomorrow evening, thanks so much for this recipe!!

    • Valerie Lugonja says:

      Thank you so much, Cody!
      This has been a tried and true no fail recipe for me, and it means so much that I was able to write it so that it will hopefully be the same kind of recipe for you!
      Truly appreciated! Big hug!
      Valerie
      PS It is not sweet at all – and the orange butter icing elevates this cookie to a whole new level….so, I hope you go all the way with this recipe.

  42. Valerie, I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. It is ABSOLUTELY the best BIG, SOFT gingerbread recipe out there. The kids, family & friends just devoured up the whole bunch. Thank you for sharing your family treasure! My twins appreciated it tremendously!! ;)

    • Valerie Lugonja says:

      I am so happy to hear this from you, Marta! We sure think so at our house. Grandma would be proud.
      XO
      Valerie

  43. Hi – I am going to try your recipe this week – how thick do you roll out the dough before cutting the shapes? English standard or metric is fine . . . Thanks!

    • Valerie Lugonja says:

      HI, Laura
      I think the photos give a good indication of the thickness of the dough. Let me say “thick”. Not thin. So not 1/8 of an inch – more like 1/4 of an inch, but not quite. Hope that helps! :)
      V

  44. What I find interesting: I’ve never come across a recipe for gingerbread cookies that calls for vinegar. I wonder how that works? Does it help make them thick (and soft)? I know that vinegar is used in egg-free cakes to help the cakes rise/fluff up , so just wondering if it works the same way here. I’m really intrigued and have to try out this recipe just to satisfy my curiosity!

    • Valerie Lugonja says:

      Needful Things!
      I am not sure about the science regarding the vinegar – but as I think about recipes that ask for it mixed with the soda – a muffin recipe I have, and a sticky toffee pudding recipe, it must have to do with the rise and the texture of the baked good. These, as you can see by the comments, are a hit that more than my family love! They are not at all sweet, so do need the icing, in my humble opinion, but others have made them and I am not sure whether they used the icing or something else. All I can say is, these cookies with the orange icing are “the bomb”!
      Thank you SO much for stopping by an initiating these discussions! Happy 2013! I will now go and snoop around your place! :)
      Valerie

  45. I am literally enjoying one of these gingerbread as I type.
    They are perfection. The exact gingerbread I’ve been searching for my entire life!

    The edges are that little bit crunchy, the middle soft like cake. Just a touch sweet (I used a really dark molasses as Val suggested).
    I did change up the spices a bit (but not much). Everything the same as in the recipe but with 3 grinds (on fine) of black pepper and 2 green cardamom pods crushed (green pod taken out and seeds ground). I have no idea if they changed it all that much but I’m a spice-oriented person and I couldn’t help myself :)

    Again, the texture and flavour are perfect. My 3yr old can’t get enough of them! lol
    Next up, the orange icing :)

    • Valerie Lugonja says:

      Even better with the icing. My edges were never crispy, but that is the beautify of baking… do it how you like it.
      So thrilled, Deb! Makes the sharing so much more gratifying when I know that someone else finds the same joy I do in a special recipe.
      XO
      Valerie

  46. mercedes hanks says:

    Made these today. They are so yummy and soft. My only issue with it was that my dough was too wet. When I tried to make the shapes, as i transferred from one surface to the next that got all stretchy and ugly looking. I probably just need to practice/ find the right amount of flour without drying out the cookies. Made them into little balls to place on cookie sheet instead and they came out as yummy little round cookies. I will be making these again for sure! Thanks for the fabulous recipe.

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