The jury's out on these Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread conjures up such wonderful things: autumnal spices - cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg - warm, homemade treats, the holidays. I close my eyes and picture these things in the form of little brown cookies, and I have to smile. The smell that fills the house when they're baking, the soft and chewy texture of them when they're done just right, even those stale and barely edible gingerbread house decorating kits make me smile, because even if they're not the best version of the gingerbread family, they're still festive and fun. L loves gingerbread. They're such a winter classic. So, of course I made a batch for an on-campus cookie exchange.

The first line of my notes about these cookies reads: "Ugh! What a pain!"

Seriously. It's as though I never learn. I hate gingerbread. The dough is the bane of my holiday existence, with its thickness that threatens to break my dough hook and its stickiness that goes everywhere but where I want it to. And the decorations are beyond tedious when you don't turn them into a friend- or family-wide gathering. Bah humbug, indeed. When it comes to gingerbread dough, I am an incurable Scrooge.

And yet, I insist on making them again and again. I'm a more experienced baker, I say to myself; or, I just won't use the same recipe; or even, you know what? I don't care if they're difficult to make! People love them, so I need to stop being such a baby. Well, if swearing off a treacherous cookie recipe makes me a baby, then name-call away.

I'm especially bitter this year because I chose a recipe flop. So, although last year I had similarly difficult experiences in making them, the actual cookies came out pretty well so I could at least be proud of my product. I actually threw the last bunch of these away recently because even I, Queen of all things frugal, could not force myself to eat them up. To waste they went, and the bottom of the trash can is where they will stay.

You must be wondering at this point why I'm even bothering writing about them, if I felt so strongly against their existence. Well, L loved them. Genuinely, really. So, maybe they're not all that bad. But I will present them to you with several warnings:

1. They spread like the devil. The recipe did not mention a greased or ungreased cookie sheet, so I did grease them. This undoubtedly did not help. Do not grease yours - there is a near ton of butter in them, and therefore do not need the help of more butter on the sheet.
2. Along the same lines as #1, don't expect these to be gingerbread men, as I mistakenly did. You see, the recipe tells you that you can cut them into whatever shapes you like, but this is - as far as I can tell - a bold faced lie. Just do circles, and make it a lot easier on yourself. Because even without the butter on the baking sheet, I cannot imagine these holding their shape very well.
3. These are flat, flat, flat. They puff up like monsters in the oven and then totally fall. Maybe this is not supposed to happen, but it happened to me. So, I want to warn you.
4. These are very soft, chewy cookies, not your typical gingerbread recipe. I thought I would like this, but with them being as flat as they were, it didn't appeal to me as much.

Again, I know people who tried these and loved them. Personally, I mostly tasted the butter, and not in a nice, light kind of way. Maybe I'm a little butter sensitive these days. Regardless, if you do venture into the realm of this recipe, I would love to hear your results. I'm always disheartened by a failed recipe and tend to think that I could improve upon them - but being as how I have so many other gingerbread recipes, and how I'm never keen to make them for the heck of it, I'm probably going to cross this one off my list and move on. Also, if you have more general gingerbread-making tips, I would be even more interested in hearing from you. Because these are, without a doubt, the cookie that I hate to love, and love to hate. I would really like to, one day, love to love them.

Gingerbread Cookies, courtesy of Pastry Methods & Techniques
Yield: about 4 dozen pretty big cookies, I'd say

The Ingredients
32oz. all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. allspice
4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
2.5 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
4 sticks (1lb.) butter
12oz. sugar
2 eggs
1C molasses
1/4C corn syrup

The Method
Whisk all of the dry ingredients together and set aside. Meanwhile, cream the butter and the sugar until light. Add the molasses and corn syrup to the butter mixture. Finally, mix in the dry ingredients.

Chill the dough - you want to take this step seriously. The colder the dough is, the easier it will be to roll out and work with. I even took a hunk out to work with and left the rest in the fridge to try to keep it cold throughout the rolling and cutting process.

Preheat the oven to 325F. When ready, roll the dough out preeetttyyyy thin for a crispy cookie, or a little bit less thin for a chewier, thicker cookie. I probably did mine to a little under 1/4", but I'm terrible with measurement guesstimates and did not use a ruler.

Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes. For crispier cookies, you're going for the upper end of this range; for chewier ones, you want to shy more towards 7 minutes and look for a cookie that is set but not yet browned (I found this a little difficult to discern, considering gingerbread is, well, brown). When done, leave them on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes. This will do 2 things: it will allow the cookies to set a little more, making it easier to transfer them without them breaking to pieces; it will also give the sheet time to cool down a bit, since you'll presumably be baking in batches and it's never good to start with a hot sheet (uneven baking and whatnot).

I also just realized that I didn't even take pictures of these! How lame of me - Food Blogs is going to kick me out one of these days, with all of this recent photographic laziness I've been exhibiting. I apologize. The original poster didn't provide pictures, either. They didn't look very pretty, anyway - really spread out, flat brown cookies. Makes you want to run to the kitchen right now and whip up a batch, right? I'll be baking a lot this week - I'm sure I'll have some more promising recipes to share in the near future.

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