To me, the gingerbread cookie is an iconic image of the winter holiday season. There's just something about those cute little gingerbread boy and girls that screams Christmas time to me. Gingerbread cookies are one of my favorite things to make, but they're not quite as easy as you might imagine. Sure, preparing the dough is no big deal - adding the spices, mixing the dough, refrigerating it.
The real difficulty seems to come in the baking. One minute too short in the oven? You've got a mushy cookie. One minute too long in the oven? You've got an overly dark, much too crisp cookie. But the truly aggravating part of the entire matter is taking the cookie off of the cookie sheet. It's one thing to break a leg off of a gingerbread boy when you're eating it – it's entirely another matter to lift the cookie off the sheet – and leave the leg behind. Or the head.
There's a simple trick to getting the cookies off of the cookie sheet without
breaking them. No, it's not greasing the cookie sheet – if you do that,
the extra fat from the spray will soak into the cookie, and result in a
less than favorable texture. Simply line your cookie sheet with
parchment paper. The easiest way to do this is to roll out the parchment
paper, put the cookie sheet on top of it, and trace around it with
pencil. Cut around the lines, and place the paper on top of the sheet.
Lay the cookie cutouts on top of the paper, and bake as directed. Cool
on the sheet for 1 to 2 minutes, then just lift the sheet off of the
pan, and place the whole sheet on a cooling rack. If you need to bake
another batch of cookies, use your spatula to lift the cookies off of
the paper instead of removing the entire sheet of parchment from the baking sheet. You can
reuse the paper several times.
It's super easy to do this, and as a bonus, your cookie sheet will remain clean. All of your gingerbread people remain whole, and you can have the satisfaction of biting the legs off for yourself.
To me, that's the best part of gingerbread people.