Gingerbread cookies

4 Dec

These gingerbread cookies are from a recipe given to me by my Austrian mother-in-law. They are similar to “Pfeffernusse” that you might see coming out at Christmas-time. They are a traditional German/Austrian Christmas biscuit, full of delicious spicy gingerbread flavour. You can’t use this recipe to make gingerbread men or houses, as it’s way too soft, but it makes excellent button-shaped biscuits that I can eat by the handful! Want to make a gingerbread house? Try this recipe.

Gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread cookies


(Makes about 50 small biscuits)

150g butter
4 eggs
100g golden syrup *
60g honey *
300g caster sugar
600g self-raising flour
1 1/2 Tbsp gingerbread spice **

How to:

Half fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring to a simmer. Choose a mixing bowl that will fit over the saucepan, as a double boiler.

Combine the butter, eggs, golden syrup, honey and caster sugar in the bowl and place over the simmering saucepan of water.

Using an electric mixer, beat the ingredients in the bowl until the sugar has melted and the mixture is frothy.

beat gingerbread mix over a water bath

Beating the gingerbread mix over a simmering water bath

In a large bowl, combine the flour and gingerbread spices. Make a well and pour in the warm liquid mixture, stirring till thoroughly combined.

Let the dough stand in a warm place for a couple of hours, or overnight.

When the dough has risen, take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into balls, placing on a baking tray lined with baking paper, allowing room to spread. You can flour your hands occasionally to prevent the mixture sticking.

This dough is very soft, roll it into balls to bake little round cookies

This dough is very soft and fluffy

Bake in a moderate oven (180°C) for 10-12 minutes or until golden. It’s better to undercook than overcook these cookies, to maintain softness.

These biscuits are delicious straight out of the oven, but they can also be decorated. Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Decoration options:

Icing: Make a light icing with icing sugar, a splash of lemon juice and water or milk. The icing should be quite runny and coat the biscuits evenly. Leave plain, or sprinkle with hundreds and thousands.

Chocolate: melt some chocolate in a double boiler and fill into a piping bag. (If you don’t have a piping bag, try a ziplock sandwich bag and snip a tiny corner off.) Pipe the chocolate over the biscuits in a zig zag fashion.

Icing AND chocolate: do both the above for a delicious Christmas treat!

Store-bought gingerbread Christmas cookies in Austria come with a variety of decorations: icing, icing and sprinkles, icing and chocolate zig zags, just  chocolate zig zags, chocolate all over (you’ll want to thin out the melted chocolate with a little cream), chocolate all over with sprinkles, and pink icing with sprinkles as well.



* My mother-in-law’s original recipe called for 160g of honey, but I personally found this too overpowering, so I have adjusted the mixture to use more golden syrup than honey. Golden syrup doesn’t seem to be available in Austria though. If you can’t get golden syrup, you could try maple syrup, treacle, molasses, etc, anything that has a sweet taste and the consistency of honey.

** Gingerbread spices: I’m lucky enough to have a large container of Austrian gingerbread spices, thanks to my mother-in-law, but you can make your own for the above recipe using a mix of more common spices. I suggest using:

3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp something else from the list below:

Mixed spice (mine contains cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice), ground cloves, allspice, star anise, ground coriander or Chinese five spice (mine contains cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel seeds and pepper). You can substitute these as into the mix if needed as the flavours are right for this recipe. If it smells like gingerbread, you’re on the right track!

Ingredients for making your own gingerbread spice

Ingredients for making your own gingerbread spice


5 Responses to “Gingerbread cookies”

  1. photomark77 October 15, 2013 at 5:45 am #

    just got mine out the oven. good recipe. I wouldn’t advise using Chinese 5 spice as it contains ground onion and ground garlic.

    • cooking4cheats October 15, 2013 at 6:52 am #

      Haha! Which brand are you using? I have Masterfoods in my pantry and there’s no savoury stuff in that one, only sweet (and pepper, but that’s ok in gingerbread, gives it a bit of bite)

  2. Saint December 7, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    I was looking to make gingerbread popcorn but I didn’t have some of the spices until I saw your post about using Chinese 5 Spice. Genius. THANKS!


  1. Advent : Day 6 | Celluloid & Leftovers - December 7, 2013

    […] then I looked in my spice box and I was missing a few key ingredients when I saw this from a fellow WordPresser who used Chinese 5 spice to make gingerbread cookies. PERFECT. My 5 spice […]

  2. World Advent : Day 6 | Celluloid & Leftovers - December 7, 2013

    […] then I looked in my spice box and I was missing a few key ingredients when I saw this from a fellow WordPresser who used Chinese 5 spice to make gingerbread cookies. PERFECT. My 5 spice […]

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