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Lets be clear though, when I am talking gingerbread cookies, I am NOT talking about the bland, cardboard-like ones covered in cement-hard, fluorescent icing that you find at grocery stores and low-quality bakeries. Don't get me wrong, icing is a must, but for me the perfect gingerbread cookies are relatively thick, and soft and chewy. The icing is also not rock-hard.
My favorite recipe is, well, my own. These cookies are not for the kids folks. They have real bite, which is how I like them. I use not one, but three types of ginger, plus an array of other spices. They are also relatively healthy, for a cookie because I make them with all whole grain flour (of course!), they are vegan, and prune puree instead of butter. This is more for the soft consistency this gives them than anything else. Although they do have the added bonus of helping to keep you regular! They can also be low in sugar if you choose an alternative sweetener, the choice is yours. Although I like to use blackstrap molasses (which is also high in iron!), if you find it too strong, fancy molasses can be used too. If you don't have all the spices, or don't like some that I used, just suit to your taste or what you have available.
I like to top them with royal icing, but load it on pretty thick so that it doesn't get rock hard. Alternatively, you can make sandwich cookies with them, and fill the centre with your favorite flavour/type of icing. I think cream cheese and lemon work best.
These are not crisp or crumbly in any way, they are more cakey and chewy, which I like, but if you prefer the crisp type of cookie, you can replace the prune puree with 1/2 cup of Earth Balance (or butter).
Grownup Gingerbread Cookies
3+ cups whole wheat pastry flour or whole grain kamut flour
1 cup sugar (or alternative sweetener)
2.5 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
A few grindings of freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3-4.5oz jars organic pureed prunes (baby food) or apple sauce
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tbls fresh, grated ginger
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients, fresh and crystallized ginger and mix until dough comes together. If it is too sticky, add more flour, about 1/4 cup at a time. Turn dough onto clean, well floured surface. Sprinkle more flour on top surface and roll out to desired thickness. Use the rim of a glass or any shape cookie cutters and cut out cookies. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes. Let cool before icing. Makes at least 2 dozen cookies, depending on how thick you make them and how big/what shape you choose. I just used a water glass to make fairly large round ones because I could care less about cute shapes, they're just going into my belly!
If you are looking for a vegan royal icing recipe, you can try this one:
Vegan Royal Icing Recipe*
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp egg replacer powder
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1.5 -2 cups powdered sugar
1. Use an electric mixer to combine water and ener-g egg replacer, until it becomes thick and frothy.
2. Add in cream of tartar and continue to mix.
3. Slowly add in powdered sugar. Really watch the texture when adding in powdered sugar in increments. You are watching for an icing that holds a ripple for about 5 seconds and slowly smoothes away.
4. Decorate away!
*To ensure your icing doesn't get rock hard, you can add a few tsp of agave syrup, and feel free to add any flavouring you want (vanilla, lemon, etc.).
UPDATE: Turns out these aren't just for grownups after all! Even with the fresh ginger and cracked black pepper I added to these, the girls LOVED them!! As a matter of fact, they even loved them plain as I served them without icing this time.