Any finesse I may bring to mixing other types of doughs and batters goes right out the window when I mix gingerbread. I just dump all the ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir. You can see in the below picture that I even ignored my own instruction to lightly beat the eggs. I just plopped them right in. Why? Because this dough is very hard to ruin by overmixing. It has very little water in it (only the egg whites), and lots and lots of stuff to interfere with gluten formation…fats, sugars, burnt plant matter from the molasses, you name it. In all the years I’ve mishandled this stuff, it’s never once shrunk up in the oven or been anything less that perfectly rich and cakey when lightly baked, and rigid and crispy when darkly baked. It may be the world’s ultimate idiot-proof dough. Start by putting all your ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle…
…and mix until the dough is uniform, 3-5 minutes. It should be slightly shiny and putty-like.
While you can roll it immediately if you like, it tends to roll out a bit more smoothly if you let it sit for an hour or so in the refrigerator. So I pat it down…
…wrap it in plastic and let it chill before I use it.
This dough will keep for several days in the refrigerator, and can be frozen for several months if need be. This dough rolls and cuts very easily on a lightly floured board. Bake small shapes for about 8 minutes and very large ones for up to 15.
Here’s a good sturdy gingerbread that’s excellent for either gingerbread cookies or gingerbread houses. It’s not half bad for eating, either! Yes, it contains vegetable shortening, but that’s a better choice when you’re fashioning a house or making a cookie that’s destined to become a tree ornament. Why? Because shortening won’t go rancid. If you have a problem with eating vegetable shortening, you can make it with butter if you prefer. This recipe makes enough for one large gingerbread house or many, many cookies.
1 lb. 14 ounces (6 cups) all-purpose flour
6.75 ounces (1 cup) vegetable shortening
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
12 ounces (1 cup) molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl with a fork, then combine all the ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together. It should be uniform and pliable. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it.
When you’re ready to start baking, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch and cut your shapes as desired, conserving the scraps to re-roll as needed. Should the dough become dry as you work, just moisten your hands under the sink and knead it a bit.
Bake the dough for about 8 minutes for small shapes and up to 15 minutes for large shapes. The gingerbread is done when it starts to darken at the edges. Allow it to cool completely and harden before decorating and/or using it for building.
The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 or four days, or frozen for several months.