I no longer know who Betty was, or why we ran her recipe, but I’ve been making Betty’s Traditional Gingerbread since the first Christmas I worked in the food section at the Vancouver Sun, in 1987.
I was planning to make a gingerbread house, but I was busy. The dough stayed in the fridge, Christmas came and went, and the moment for gingerbread houses passed. Sometime early in January, I rolled out the dough, cut some cookies, and realized, with enormous pleasure, that this recipe makes truly great gingerbread cookies.
They have a subtle spicy flavor, not too heavy, and if you roll them thin and keep them crisp, a satisfying snap. I’m happy to have leftover dough early in January, because they’re good spread with soft cheese, with an apple on the side. And if it’s still Christmas, they’re lovely dipped in chocolate – but what isn’t?
And though sugar cookies sometimes make it onto the menu for cookie night and sometimes don’t, gingerbreads to decorate always do.
I double the recipe and sometimes end up making it twice.
Because the dough keeps so well in the fridge, it’s perfect for pulling out for last-minute guests. You can roll out the cookies, pop them in the oven, and in less than 10 minutes have a house that smells of Christmas.
The only thing you need to know is to make them at least a day before you want to bake them, to let the flavor develop.
The original recipe called for shortening. I always use butter. And I roll the cookies thinner than the 1/4 inch that Betty suggested. One quick tip: grease your measuring cup before you pour the molasses in, and it will come out easily.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2-1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Cream butter and sugar together.
- Combine flour, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, mixing well.
- Combine molasses, vinegar and baking soda and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Add flour, part at a time, mixing well.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- For gingerbread cookies, roll dough out to 1/8th inch thickness on a lightly flour surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.
- Bake at 350 F for 8 to 10 minutes.
Tomorrow: Possibly the best Christmas cookie of all time: Cappuccino Shortbreads