Lately, I’ve been craving the sort of gingerbread that snaps cleanly in half with a satisfying pop.
But how can you make the gingerbread cookies crispy and crunchy? Should they even be crispy, or are they supposed to be soft and puffed up?
That’s what today’s post is all about!
The typical gingerbread cookie is crispy along the edges but a little soft on the inside. That said, it’s not a cut-and-dry situation.
Some folks like their gingerbread men thick and chewy, while others prefer their holiday treats on the crunchy side—both are valid choices.
Of course, we’re talking about cookies here, not the decorative gingerbread houses. Those have to be harder and dryer than the average cookie.
After all, the recipes for gingerbread houses often have less baking soda, butter, and molasses.
Plus, you’ll likely have to let the baked pieces dry for a day or two. This way, when you “assemble” the walls, they’ll hold together nicely.
But for this post, I’ll focus on the cookies (the festive cutouts and the drop varieties).
Since you’re still reading, I assume you’re among those who like their gingerbread cookies crunchy.
Here are seven simple tips to help you crisp those bad boys up:
Before you bother with other tips, make sure you’re rolling your dough nice and thin.
There’s a delicate balance to maintain, though.
If you over-roll the dough, the cookies will come out too fragile. Trust me, your gingerbread men will snap in half before you even get a chance to serve them.
So, how far should you go?
Well, for a “normal” gingerbread cookie, a ¼-inch thickness will do. However, if you want your batch extra crispy, aim for ⅛ inch.
I know “eyeballing” these measurements on a slab of dough might not be everyone’s forte, and I won’t leave you hanging. Here are some tricks to try:
- Use spacer rings on your rolling pin.
- Get a dough scraper with a ruler and measure when you feel like you’re close to the desired thickness.
- Find a 1/4-inch “natural marker” on your hand (your pinky’s thickness, for instance) and use it for reference.
Regardless of which method you choose, don’t forget to flour your working area well. There’s no point putting that much effort into rolling a sheet of dough that you won’t be able to get off the counter in the end!
Many gingerbread recipes use brown sugar, and it’s for a good reason. The rich molasses flavor gives the cookies dimension.
However, it holds a lot of moisture, which keeps the texture chewy. Meanwhile, white sugar gives you an aerated and crispy texture.
Still, you don’t want to skip brown sugar altogether because it’s vital for the flavor. To keep things balanced, look for recipes that use a blend of brown and white sugar.
For instance, you could use a 1:2 ratio.
In most cases, you’ll need baking soda for the cookies. You’ll also notice that although brown sugar has a decent dose of molasses, the average gingerbread recipe still calls for molasses as a standalone ingredient.
Some recipes take a different route and use both baking soda and baking powder. This puffs up the cookies and makes them chewy.
So, you might want to ditch the baking powder and settle for the soda as a solo leavening agent if you want a better crunch.
Do your cookies come out dry yet puffed up? You might be using more flour than necessary.
The worst part is that you might not even be aware that you’re overloading the dough. Unfortunately, many bakers have been guilty of “packing” down flour in a measuring cup at one point.
Unless the recipe explicitly calls for a “packed” portion, follow the fluff, scoop, and sweep method.
Alternatively, you could cut the hassle out of the equation and weigh the flour on a kitchen scale.
Chances are, your gingerbread recipe calls for baking at 350°F.
I don’t have any gripes with the temperature. However, you have to be extra careful with the bake time.
Underbaking reduces the crispiness, but it’s also easy to burn the bottoms if you leave the batch in the oven too long.
The issue here is that some ovens run hot, so it’s hard for me to give you an exact time limit. I’d say 10 minutes is a good ballpark figure, though.
Suppose you’ve adjusted the sugar ratio, thinned out the dough, and absolutely nailed the bake time, only to find that the cookies came out of the oven soft.
I can see how you might be frustrated, but the situation isn’t as bad as you think.
The cookies will continue to harden even after they’re out of the oven. Just move them to a cooling rack and check in on them later.
Unless you’re going to finish the entire batch right away, you’ll have to pop the cookies into an airtight container.
You should never rush this step, though.
If you store them too soon while they’re still warm, you’ll lock the moisture in the container. Eventually, you’ll lose the crunch that you worked so hard for and end up with a soggy mess.
There’s one more storage issue to consider.
While gingerbread cookies can taste good after freezing and thawing, there’s a price to pay—it’s often the texture. If the crisp is really that important to you, it’s better to go for fresh batches.
The number one tip for making crispy and crunchy gingerbread cookies is rolling the dough into a thin sheet. Other recipe tweaks, like using less brown sugar, can help as well.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with biting into a thick and chewy gingerbread cookie!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.