Get a healthy dose of ginger and find out why some baking old-time techniques still work. Get gingerbread recipes at
I may not have red hair, but in the kitchen I’m definitely a ginger. You’ve probably spotted this from the regular appearance of ginger on the blog—ginger-flavored syrups and marmalades, ginger-spiked beverages, Pickled Ginger, Gingerbread Pancakes, and for the ultimate hit, Triple Gingersnaps and Triple Ginger Cake. So it seemed highly appropriate to add two more traditional ginger recipes to the lineup this month: gingerbread in cookie and loaf forms.

When I went digging for family variations of these recipes, I found some surprising ingredients and techniques. I decided to pick apart one of my grandmother’s well-used recipes, from her 1930 Fruit and Flower Mission Cookbook. What is the purpose of the vinegar? Why is the baking soda dissolved in water? Why do only some of the recipes in her book call for egg? I had to know more. Find out what I learned in the recipe and its tips and tricks.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need molasses, some baking staples, and a bunch of spices.
1. Mix the wet ingredients.
2. Mix and fold in the dry ingredients.
3. Roll and bake the dough.
4. Decorate as desired and enjoy.

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Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies

  • Servings: 40 cookies
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon hot water
1 egg, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in the molasses and vinegar. In a small glass measuring cup, dissolve the baking soda in the hot water; mix this into the molasses mixture, followed by the beaten egg, until thoroughly combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and other spices, and orange zest, if using. Slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture, stirring just until fully incorporated. Divide the dough in half and flatten it into discs. Wrap each disc in a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to overnight.

On a flour-dusted surface, roll one disc of dough to 1/4 inch thick, checking often to make sure the dough does not stick. Cut it into your desired shapes, placing them on a buttered or parchment-lined baking sheet; leave at least 1/4 inch around each cookie. Gather the scraps and reroll and cut the dough. Repeat with the remaining disc of dough, using additional baking sheets or cooking in batches as needed.

Bake the gingerbread at 350°F for 8 minutes, until barely firm, and cool to room temperature on cooling racks. If desired, ice the cookies by mixing the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and adding stripes of icing using a chopstick or small natural-bristle brush. Let the icing dry completely before storing the cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. Makes about 40 cookies.

Tips & Tricks
  • I’ve seen dissolved baking soda in many old cookie recipes, so I wondered if the quality of the baking soda had changed over the decades to make this an outdated step. But some research showed that it still has a purpose. Dissolved baking soda reacts more readily to the cookies’ acidic ingredients—in this case, the splash of vinegar and even the molasses and brown sugar add acid to the dough. That reaction causes cookies to puff up. And because these cookies are so flat and spend so little time in the oven, they want all the help they can get in the loft department.
  • Grandma Tiny’s cookbook had some other ginger cookie recipes that dropped the egg, so I played with both variations—and clearly saw the benefit of the fat and protein. Egg-free dough was overly dry, making it challenging to roll, and it baked up like a British digestive biscuit. With the egg in the mix, the dough rolled out easily and baked into a better shape and texture.
  • Don’t be put off by the long list of spices in this recipe: my grandmother’s recipe stuck with ginger, but the variety pushes the flavor sky high. If you plan to make many batches, prepare a spice blend and add 5 teaspoons to each batch. In a pinch, you could scale back to the spices used in a gingerbread loaf (see below).
  • If the dough is in the fridge more than a couple of hours, set it out at room temperature until it’s cool but slightly soft to the touch.
  • I tend to roll cookie dough repeatedly, down to the last scrap, but it can lose some integrity after the second pass. The final scraps can always be baked and ground to crumbs for a pie crust or a spicy addition to Chocolate Rum Balls. The yield for this recipe will be smaller if you do this—and can vary widely depending on the size of your cookie cutter.
  • Although you could go big with royal icing or a range of glazes and sprinkles, I find these cookies overly sweet when fully glazed. The lemon stripes add just the right amount of sweet topping without overpowering the spicy base.

Get a healthy dose of ginger and find out why some baking old-time techniques still work. Get gingerbread recipes at

Twice as Tasty

Get a healthy dose of ginger and find out why some baking old-time techniques still work. Get gingerbread recipes at people think of cookies shaped like handstitched dolls when they think of gingerbread, but I’m equally drawn to the “ginger” and “bread” words in the name. Surely there’s room on the holiday table for a gingerbread loaf. But when I tried to make the perfect ginger bread recipe, I found most of the loaves served up these days have more sugar than my already amazing Triple Ginger Cake.

James Beard came to my rescue. In my mom’s copy of his American Cookery from 1972, he notes that prior generations put gingerbread on the table with a meal, rather than sweetening it up to serve as dessert. I knew this old-time version would suit my taste buds. Beard’s recipe is sweetened entirely with molasses, which made sense when it was a cheap sugar for a farm family. Today, however, quality brown sugar is more affordable, and I found I preferred a blend of the two, along with some of my other favorite quick bread tricks.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 2 main ingredients plus some baking staples and spices.
1. Combine the wet ingredients.
2. Mix in the applesauce and dry ingredients.
3. Bake and enjoy.

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Gingerbread Loaf

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: 1
  • Print
1/2 cup butter
1 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups all-purpose flour

Cut the butter into small pieces. Combine it, the molasses, and the brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and pour in the boiling water. Stir until the butter breaks down. Add the applesauce, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cloves and stir lightly. Stir in the flour just enough to moisten the mix.

Lightly grease two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans with butter, and then split the batter between the pans. Bake at 375°F for 40–45 minutes, rotating the pans partway through, until the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly, and then remove the loaves from the pans and let them cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into thin slices. Makes 2 loaves.

Tips & Tricks
  • Applesauce is often served with gingerbread, so I didn’t hesitate to add it to the mix. It’s one of my favorite tricks for cutting down on the sugar and fat in quick breads, and here it seals some of that apple flavor right in the loaf.
  • Remember when I said the Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies wanted an egg? I found the opposite to be true here: with the molasses, boiling water, applesauce, and extra bit of butter, there was plenty of fat and moisture in this cake, making the egg unnecessary in the loaf.
  • With the heavy dose of molasses in this bread, I dialed back the spice variety. You can always up the spiciness by using the blend in the gingerbread cookie recipe.
  • Want even more ginger? In Beard on Bread, the expert himself suggests sprinkling candied ginger on top before baking, just like I do when baking Triple Ginger Cake in a springform.
  • The more I make this slightly sweet bread, the more versatile it becomes. It’s delicious at breakfast under preserves and at lunch with smears of Green Tomato Chutney and goat cheese. For dinner, simply serve it with butter or to dip into Roasted Squash Soup. If you crave dessert, drizzle it with Roasted Raspberry Syrup, Berry Curd, or Fresh Caramel Sauce.

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