Gingerbread is more than just a cookie; it’s a herald of the winter season, a symbol of cozy gatherings and festive nights. This recipe for Chewy Gingerbread Men offers a delightful twist on the traditional hard gingerbread cookies. Believe me when I say, these cookies are soft, chewy, and full of warm spices. They’re sure to become a new favorite in your holiday baking repertoire.

Chewy gingerbread men stacked on a plate and a single gingerbread man sitting on the counter

Crafting the Perfect Gingerbread Dough

To make this dough, start with the creaming of unsalted butter and brown sugar for 2 minutes. This process, essential for creating a light and fluffy base, by mixing on high speed you are adding air bubbles into the butter mixture that will expand in the oven and help your cookies puff up. The addition of eggs and vanilla, which bring moisture and flavor. The star of the show, molasses, not only imparts that classic gingerbread taste but also contributes to the cookies chewy texture.

The dry ingredients – all-purpose flour, baking soda, fine sea salt, and a blend of spices including ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg – are carefully combined. These spices are the heart of gingerbread’s signature flavor, each adding its unique note to the symphony of tastes.

The Chemistry Behind the Chewiness

Understanding the chemistry of these cookies adds another layer of appreciation. Molasses, a key ingredient, is a natural humectant, meaning it helps retain moisture, ensuring that these cookies stay chewy. The combination of baking soda and the acidic molasses also contributes to a tender texture by producing carbon dioxide, which makes the dough rise slightly and become lighter.

3 Tips for Making the Perfect Gingerbread Men

  • Chilling the Dough: This step is crucial. It not only makes the dough easier to handle but also allows the flavors to meld and develop. Another great benefit is that the fridge time solidifies the fats in the cookie dough, making the cookies melt down slower in the oven and keep their shape.
  • Rolling and Cutting: Rolling the dough to a uniform thickness ensures even baking, and using a variety of cookie cutter shapes can make this a fun activity for all ages.
  • Baking Time: Keep a close eye on the oven; over-baking can lead to hard cookies. It’s best to let the cookies set. You’ll know the cookies are ready once the shine is no longer visible. If you watch closely you will see the cookies transform from shiny to a dull, puffed up cookie. You’ll notice the edges will start to look set, at which point your cookies are done and should be removed from the oven.
Chewy gingerbread men stacked on a plate and a single gingerbread man sitting on the counter

Can you use honey or syrup instead of molasses?

Using honey or syrup as a substitute is okay, but they will alter the flavor and texture. Molasses is key for that classic gingerbread taste and chewy texture.

How long can these gingerbread cookies be stored?

If stored in an airtight container, at room temperature, these cookies can last for up to one week. You’ll find they have optimal chewiness within the first few days however.

Is it possible to freeze the gingerbread dough?

Yes, you can freeze the dough. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer bag or tin foil. I like to roll my cookie dough out right after mixing it. Place a parchment sheet down on the counter, scoop the dough out on top and then cover it in plastic wrap. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin. Grab a cookie sheet and place the dough on it while it’s still sandwiched between parchment paper & plastic wrap. At that point, you’ll wrap the cookie sheet & the dough in tinfoil. You can freeze the dough for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before cutting out and baking.

Can these cookies be decorated?

 Absolutely! Once cooled, decorate with icing, candies, or other edible decorations. This is a great way to add a personal touch and involve kids in the baking process.

A bunch of chewy gingerbread men stacked on a plate

What is in Gingerbread Cookies?

Unsalted butter

It is always important to use unsalted butter when baking. If you use salted butter, you have no way of knowing how much salt you are adding to your dough and it will result in an over salted treat.

Butter adds fats to your dough which helps with moistness, flavor & texture. Butter melts at body temperature, which creates a ‘melt in your mouth’ sensation.

When baking with butter the temperature is important. If the butter is too warm your cookies will melt down too fast and spread too much in the oven leaving you with a greasy, flat cookie. If butter is too cold it will have the opposite problem and not melt down enough, leaving your cookies too thick.

Brown sugar

Brown sugar is simply granulated sugar, with a little molasses mixed in. Molasses is a more bitter natural sweetener, which actually makes the sugar a bit sweeter than just plain granulated sugar. Brown sugar draws more moister into your treat and is more acidic, that means it will help make baking soda react.

Eggs

Eggs add both protein (egg whites) and fat (egg yolks). The egg whites will help with rising because when foamed, little air pockets get trapped inside the mixture. The water content in egg whites encourages steam while baking which helps with gluten formation, resulting in nice and thick cookies. Egg yolks have emulsifying properties that bring batters together and help your dough from collapsing.

Vanilla extract

When you use pure vanilla extract, you’ll find that it adds a deep and rich flavor. Everybody wants that in a treat, right?

Molasses

Is a natural sweetener that has a distinct tangy flavor.

All-purpose flour

Flour builds structure as it absorbs liquids and expands. All-purpose flour falls in the middle of bread flour (high in gluten) and cake flour (low in gluten). It is exactly what it is named, all-purpose, the most universal flour that can be used in most baked goods. 

Baking soda

Elevates the pH level of your batter. It increases the spread in cookies and gives the crispy outside, soft inside texture which everyone loves. Baking soda will need both an acid and a liquid in order to react. Things that will make baking soda react are: vinegar, fruit juice, molasses, brown sugar, tartar, buttermilk, sour cream. Baking soda however, only reacts once, whic right when its mixed into your batter it will create little air bubbles all throughout your treat. As the air bubbles get heated up in the oven, they expand.

Fine sea salt

Enhances flavor, adds balance, masks any bitter flavors. Salt is the most powerful and oldest preservative. Always make sure to use fine sea salt so that it melts down at the right speed in the heat of the oven. If you use larger granule salt it will not melt down fully when baked and will leave salt crystals throughout your cookie, making it crunch like you dropped it into sand.

Ginger, Cinnamon & Cloves

A seasoning that adds a nice spice to your cookies

Nutmeg

A seasoning that adds a nutty flavor to your cookies

Recommended Equipment:

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Chewy Gingerbread Men

Author: Madison Reid
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 3 hours
Servings: 24
Gingerbread is the sweet smell of winter. These cookies are not only delicious but they are soft. These are not your grandma's gingerbread cookies.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  • In a standing mixer combine sugar and butter, whip on medium high speed for 1-2 minutes until lighter in color and texture
  • Stir in eggs & vanilla
  • Add in molasses and mix until combined
  • In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)
  • Turn the standing mixer on low and slowly pour in the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough comes together
  • Pour the cookie dough out onto a parchment paper, cover the dough with plastic wrap, use a rolling pin to roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Place the dough onto a cookie sheet and into the fridge to rest for 1-3 hours
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, place on a light metal cookie sheet lined with a parchment paper
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies no longer look shiny
  • Leave on the pan for 10 minutes before removing to finish cooling

Nutrition

Calories: 237kcal Carbohydrates: 37g Protein: 3g Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 5g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0.3g Cholesterol: 41mg Sodium: 156mg Potassium: 206mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 17g Vitamin A: 267IU Vitamin C: 0.01mg Calcium: 40mg Iron: 2mg

Have you tried this recipe?

I’d love to see it! Follow @_mrs.madi_ on Instagram and tag your photos with #mrsmadi.