Last year my Christmas baking included gingerbread cookies (source recipe here) and they were by far everyone’s favorite. Also included in the cookie tins were cinnamon bun cookies, soft almond sugar cookies, kringla, Russian tea cakes, salted caramel bars, and frosted cutouts. I was glad the gingerbread cookies stood out because I was definitely unable to choose a favorite.
As I convert baking recipes to accommodate my freshly-milled whole wheat flours, the gingerbread cookies have been on my list to make. And it turns out there were definitely adjustments needed for them to work.
For the first batch, I followed the ingredients as written, substituting 100% soft white wheat flour instead of all-purpose, and doing the chilling and rolling procedure. After baking for the specified amount of time, they were not even close to being set and I could tell they’d just fall apart when picked up — there just wasn’t enough structure to them. So I kept baking, attempting to dry them out enough to hold together, but that made them really thin and hard, not the thick and soft texture I was after.
I did some research and found that for converting cookies to whole wheat flour, the recommendation is to reduce the butter by 20%. And for good measure, I adjusted some of the other ingredients to get the results closer to what I was looking for. I’m actually amazed it took me so long to locate this advice, considering I’ve had several experiences where the baked item seems too buttery or greasy with the whole wheat flour.
The second batch went much better, and I’m happy with the result. The texture isn’t the same as last year’s cookies made with all-purpose flour, but to me the benefits of using whole grain flour are great enough to accept the change in texture, and the taste is great.
Many of the first batch will get crushed up for a graham-cracker-style pie crust at some point. I just need to find the right filling that will complement the strong gingerbread flavors.
Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted from Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
Makes about 40 medium cookies
- 375 gm freshly-milled hard white wheat
- 50 gm freshly-milled soft white wheat
- 120 gm dark brown sugar
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 132 gm unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and slightly softened
- 200 gm molasses
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- In a small bowl, stir together the molasses and whole milk. Set aside.
- In stand mixer bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Add the butter pieces and mix with paddle attachment on medium-low until it’s a coarse meal. Reduce speed to low and slowly drizzle in the molasses mixture. Increase speed to medium-low again and mix until well combined, about a minute.
- Separate dough into two pieces and place on waxed paper. Roll up into basic log shapes, wrapping in the waxed paper, and chill for a few hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°, with a rack in the top third and a rack in the middle.
- Roll out balls of dough, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place ball between waxed paper and flatten to 1/4 inch thick with a glass. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.
- Bake on top rack for 4 minutes, then rotate pan and move to lower rack for 4 to 5 minutes. When done, the cookies will be soft, with the edges slightly set. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then move to a rack to cool completely. They’ll get firmer as they cool.