Best Gingerbread Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I prefer Earth Balance Soy Butter)
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature (spectrum is a great non-hydrogenated brand)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup un-sulfured organic molasses
Egg replacer, equivalent of 1 large egg
Clove and Cinnamon:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. ground clove
2 – 3 tbsp. shortening (room temperature)
2 – 3 tsp. vanilla soy milk
(give or take a bit of milk)
3 – 4 tbsp. earth balance soy butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp. shortening (room temperature)
3 tsp. vanilla soy milk
***The dough must be chilled for at least two hours and up to two days. The cookies can be prepared up to one week ahead, stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Position the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper through a wire sieve into a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter and vegetable shortening until well-combined, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)
To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.) Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick, being sure that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface (run a long meal spatula or knife under the dough occasionally just to be sure, and dust the surface with more flour, if needed). For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to nonstick cookie sheets, placing the cookies 1 inch apart. Gently knead the scraps together and form into another disk. Wrap and chill for 5 minutes before rolling out again to cut out more cookies.
Bake, switching the positions of the cookies from top to bottom and back to front halfway through baking, until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. If you want the cookies softer, remove from oven when almost the whole cookie looks done. It’s a little hard to tell, but if it looks fairly raw in the center then they will be perfect when cooled and will stay softer for up to a week longer than cookies with a longer baking time. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely.
To make clove and cinnamon frosting, mix all ingredients minus milk in one bowl until thick and creamy. Slowly add in milk, and if needed, add more milk or shortening to firm up or thin out consistency.
To make the buttercream frosting, whip butter in another bowl until fluffy. Slowly mix in powdered sugar, shortening, and soy milk until thick and creamy. Top cookies with desired even amounts of both frostings.