My Gingerbread Cookies Break Family Tradition — And I’m Totally OK with That

My family refuses to partake in my favorite style of gingerbread, but that won't stop me from baking it!

Alex Guarnaschellis Gingerbread Cookies shaped like men and trees

Photo by: Tara Donne ©Tara Donne

Tara Donne, Tara Donne

We have a BOYG policy in my family (bring your own gingerbread) and, ironically, it’s because of me. Despite my formal pastry training and experience baking in professional kitchens, nobody in my extended family will try my gingerbread cookies (womp, womp).

Give them anything else that I bake (anything) and they’ll devour it in seconds — gingerbread cake, included. But, gingerbread people? Not so much. Their grinchy hearts won’t touch these festive little cut-out cookies with a 39 1/2-foot pole!

The reason? I'm obsessed with super thin-and-crispy gingerbread people. They, on the other hand, love the thick-and-chewy variety (the ones our family has been making for years).

I get it: There are a ton of cookies to choose from at a holiday gathering — why reach for a paper-thin, unfrosted gingerbread person when you’re not a fan of other famously crisp cookies (like biscotti or gingersnaps)? Not to mention the fact that most of the other cookies are full of nostalgia, made the same way Christmas after Christmas.

But don’t be fooled by their plain appearance; My tradition-breaking gingerbread cookies aren’t like other crispy cookies. They’re light and crunchy, with a texture almost like a kettle-cooked potato chip (and just as easy to keep popping in your mouth). If you roll them reeeeeeeally thin, the cookies will end up with a nice satisfying snap — but won't be difficult to eat.

Thin-and-crispy gingerbread cookies have a better flavor, too. In order to get the right texture, I use an all-butter recipe, like this one from Alex Guarnaschelli. Some versions call for a mix of butter and shortening. The shortening helps the cookies bake up tall and stay tender — but it doesn't add the same rich flavor as real butter (no, not even the butter-flavored shortening). And, because I forgo royal icing (which is probably the only thing more unpopular than the idea of crispy gingerbread people!) all the warm, holiday baking spices get a chance to shine — no covering them up with overly-sweet frosting.

The bottom line? Comparing thin-and-crispy gingerbread cookies to soft-and-chewy ones is like comparing candy canes and Christmas trees — they’re not the same! Tender gingerbread cut-outs, adorned with candy dots and swirls of icing are what you each for when you’re after a frosting-and-sprinkle-fueled sugar rush. Crisp gingerbread cookies are your go-to when you’re craving a snack that’s got bold flavor and a big dose of crunch.

If you’ve got a family tradition to uphold then, by all means, make soft gingerbread cookies — but don’t be afraid to start a new tradition. You might find that you love thin-and-crispy gingerbread cookies, too!

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