Ginger Spice Stars

On the fourth day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Ginger Spice Stars.

Can we have a Christmas cookie collection without including at least one old world ginger spice cookie? No way! For the Deck the Halls cookie collection, I gave you Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor. And for the Starry Night collection, it was Comfort & Joy Spice Cookies. These are very different cookies.

Thus, just because a cookie contains what I call Gingerbread Spice, a blend of ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves, with perhaps a little cardamom thrown in for good measure, that doesn’t mean it has to taste like every other gingerbread cookie you’ve ever eaten. There’s a long history behind this the gingerbread cookie, but there is also a lot of latitude and surely many new approaches that have yet to be tried.

For instance, I like gingerbread cookies with a lingering citrus aftertaste, so this year I grated in lots of lemon and orange peel, plus added a little lemon oil. I also like these spicy cookies to pack a grown-up wallop, thus a good measure of  pepper was included. And since I don’t want molasses to be all you can taste in the cookie, I moderated its proportion to the other ingredients. (In the cookies just mentioned, there is no molasses at all.) I also prefer a thin, crisp gingerbread cookie, in the style of Pepparkakor, rather than the thicker, softer style that is often used for sturdy Gingerbread People. Thus, this year’s ginger spice cookie has all of these elements.

Another reason I love gingerbread cookies, besides the distinct aroma and flavor, is because of their usually dark color, which you can darken even further by adding either more molasses or a tablespoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder. The dark dough provides a perfect contrast for white or lightly tinted frosting, as seen here.

Ginger Spice Stars

This gingerbread-style cookie is rolled thin to produce an extra crisp snap when you bite into it. To give it adult appeal, there is a full measure of heat from the white pepper and the amount of the molasses specified is moderate for this type of cookie. Interestingly, the kids who have tasted this cookie love the spicy heat, so you be the judge for your respective munchkins.

Technique Note   This dough is great for gingerbread people, as well as for any other shape cookie cutter you may wish to use. You can roll it a little thicker if you wish, but you may lose the wonderful snap.

3½ cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons Gingerbread Spice Powder (recipe below)
2-3 teaspoons ground white pepper, optional
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

finely grated zest of 1 large orange
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
¼ teaspoon lemon oil

1 large egg
½ cup unsulfured molasses

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Reserve.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar, sugar, Gingerbread Spice Powder, pepper if using, and salt.
  3. Add the orange zest, lemon zest, and lemon oil and beat until creamy, smooth, and well combined.
  4. Add the egg and thoroughly incorporate, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple of times in the process.
  5. Add the molasses and incorporate well, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple of times in the process.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into thirds. Flatten and then enclose each piece on a sheet of plastic wrap. Frig at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
  7. On a well floured pastry cloth, using a covered and floured rolling pin, roll out one portion of very cold dough at a time to a ?-inch thickness. (Keep the remainder of the dough cold while you are working on one portion at a time. If the dough becomes too warm and sticky while you are working with it, return to the frig until chilled.) Use a little flour to keep the dough from sticking if necessary, but try not to work too much additional flour into the dough.
  8. Using a 2½-inch star cookie cutter (or cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies.
  9. Line an edged baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange cookies slightly apart on the cookie sheet.
  10. Bake each sheet of cookies at 350° for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point to ensure even browning. (If you have a convection oven or setting on your regular oven, by all means use it. Your cookies will be brown more evenly.)
  11. When the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
  12. If desired, decorate by piping Powdered Sugar Icing onto each cookie in a decorative pattern. Return the decorated cookies to the wire rack to allow the icing to set up, which can take as long as a couple of hours.
  13. Store airtight in layers separated by wax paper rounds in a cookie tin in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks.

Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter.

Gingerbread Spice Powder

2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground allspice
½ tablespoon ground cardamom
½ tablespoon ground cloves

  1. In a small bowl, combine the spics and whisk to blend.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry location.

Makes about 6 tablespoons.

Powdered Sugar Icing

This is the simplest of cookie icings. If you want an opaque icing, make the icing a bit thicker, and consider adding white icing color.

2 cups powdered sugar
about 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water, fresh orange juice, or lemon juice
½ teaspoon clear vanilla, almond, orange, lemon, or other extract, optional
Wilton’s White Icing Color, optional
gel coloring, optional

  1. Put the powdered sugar into a small mixing bowl and add liquid, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you achieve piping consistency. Add flavoring and coloring if desired.
  2. Test consistency by piping a bit of the icing on a piece of parchment paper. It should pipe easily but also hold is shape on the paper. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If too thick, add a drop or two of liquid.
  3. Put the icing into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip or into a small plastic squeeze bottle with a small tip.
  4. Pipe the icing onto cooled cookies and set on a wire rack to dry completely. This can take as long as a couple of hours.
  5. When icing is completely dry, arrange cookies in layers, separated by wax paper rounds, in a cookie tin, and then store in a cool, dry place.

Makes ½ cup.

There’s More

Follow along as we bake this year’s cookie collection, and check out our past two collections:


Copyright 2010 Susan S. Bradley. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. gypsybaker says

    I baked these for Valentine’s Day to ship to England for our granddaughters (5 & 3 yrs old) since you said they would keep for a few weeks. I put them in a tin I had & tied it with a ribbon. I just ate the last of my stash of them this morning & the flavor really did improve. I only added a bit of pepper since I wasn’t sure how spicy the little ones could enjoy.

    Just a couple thoughts: I didn’t see in the recipe when to add the flour; but, I added it in thirds after the molassses.
    Also, I used your icing recipe to make decorative (& I use that term loosely) designs on the hearts that I sent to the girls; but, decided to experiment on the rest of the cookies & used the icing recipe I use on my rolled & cut out sugar cookies. I liked that better. Here’s the recipe, you might like to try because it has an ingredient I’ve never seen used in icing before…the funny thing is: it just tastes so-so by itself but really comes alive when coupled with a cookie. Please let me know if you would like the cookie recipe that goes with it. It has a secret ingredient too!

    3C (I generally use less because otherwise it’s too sweet for me) powdered sugar (or that amazing glazing sugar KAF sells)
    3/4 tsp salt (or a bit less)
    1/2 tsp mace (aka the secret ingredient)
    1 tsp vanilla
    4T whole milk (added a bit at a time to get the right spreading consistency)
    Tint frosting if desired.

  2. Jennifer says

    Just made these and they were FABULOUS. I used the pepper, and I couldn’t specifically taste it in the cookies, but I think it did add something to the spice.

    I did have trouble with the cookies spreading out. But I had that problem with most of the recipes I’ve made this year, I think I just need to work on my technique.

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Jennifer, so glad they turned out well for you! :-) Yes, the pepper blends in with the other spices and lends a subtle spicy heat to the finish. For the spreading out issue, try putting the rolled out sheet of cookies into the frig or freezer for 10-15 minutes before baking. That should help. Happy baking!

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Mary Anne/Mariel, it’s INSANITY I know. An every year I say, “This is it! Never again!” and then September rolls around, and I start thinking about what new Christmas cookies I’m going to make this year. :-)


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