Gingerbread Reindeer
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Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen

Gingerbread Reindeer

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 6 hr (includes chilling, cooling and drying times)
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 18 gingerbread reindeer
These cookies turn gingerbread on its head -- literally. Flipping gingerbread men upside down provides the perfect shape to decorate the cookies to look like reindeer. Leave some out for Santa and his reindeer and they will most certainly be impressed.



Special equipment:
a 4-inch gingerbread man cookie cutter
  1. Whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until well blended.
  2. Beat the granulated sugar and butter with an electric mixer in a large bowl starting on low speed and increasing to medium, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the molasses until combined, then beat in the egg (the mixture will look curdled). Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture a little at a time until the mixture comes together. Then increase the speed to medium and beat until well incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Divide the dough in half, flatten into 2 disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  3. Position oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Keeping one disk refrigerated, roll the other disk on a well-floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch, sprinkling flour on and under the dough as needed and sliding a spatula underneath every so often to prevent sticking. If the dough looks crackly or breaks apart, press it back together from the outside edge in. With a 4-inch gingerbread man cookie cutter, cut out cookies as close together as possible. Pull away the extra dough around each shape and use a small spatula to transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Gather together the scraps, leaving behind the excess flour, knead a few times to form a smooth dough again and reroll in the same way. (If there are any pieces of stuck dough on your surface, scrape them away with a spatula, flour the surface again and then continue to roll the dough.)
  5. Bake the cookies in the center of the oven racks, rotating them from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until slightly firm to the touch but not brown, about 12 minutes. Cool the cookies 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing. The cookies will continue to firm as they cool. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
  6. Meanwhile, make the royal icing for decorating. Combine the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl. Add 6 tablespoons water and beat with an electric mixer on low until the icing thickens. The icing should be pure white and thick, but not fluffy and bubbly. (If overbeaten, it will get aerated, which makes it harder to work with. If this happens, let the icing sit for a bit to settle, then use a rubber spatula to vigorously beat and smooth it out.)
  7. Spoon about 1/3 cup of icing into each of 3 separate bowls (cover any remaining icing with plastic wrap and reserve in case you need more). Leave 1 bowl white. Dye the second bowl black and the third light brown. Thin out the light brown icing with 1 teaspoon water. Transfer the icing to separate resealable plastic bags. Snip a very tiny hole in the corner of the white and black icing bags, and snip a larger hole in the corner of the light brown icing bag.
  8. Place each cookie right side up in front of you. With the black icing, pipe an outline around the head of each cookie, around the arms and across the chest with a bowed line. Turn the gingerbread man upside down so it is standing on its head; now you can see the shape of the reindeer's head. Pipe black antlers coming out of the top of the head, over the gingerbread man's legs and feet.
  9. Using the loose light brown icing, flood each reindeer's head, using a toothpick to nudge the icing into any tight spots. Place a red cinnamon candy in the center of each face for the nose. Dry until set, 40 minutes to 1 hour.
  10. Once the brown base has dried, pipe on the rest of the face. Pipe 2 white dots above the nose for the whites of the eyes, and 2 white dots on the underside of the ears for downy fur. Use the black icing to pipe a smiling mouth and eyebrows. Once the white icing has slightly dried, pipe in black pupils. Give your reindeer some personality! Let the icing dry until hardened, 1 hour or ideally overnight.
  11. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but are best eaten fresh.

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)