This weekend I spent an inordinate amount of time doing something unrelated to my day job and unrelated to this blog. I’d love to tell you that it was visiting orphaned puppies in a leper colony, but it wasn’t. I was baking.
Every year it’s my duty to make gingerbread cookies. Last year I failed at this job because I got my eyeballs lasered and couldn’t handle life for a couple weeks. This year I rolled up my sleeves and picked up where I left off two years ago. However, while making my first batch of cookies I had an idea. What if instead of using molasses I substitute some sort of root beer syrup? The flavor profiles seemed close enough and it felt like a clever twist. I didn’t have any root beer syrup so I just finished the batch per usual. Here are some of my favorites:
I had to make a second batch the next day (my kids ate too much of the first batch so we didn’t have enough to share) and it got me thinking about the root beer thing some more. I ordered some Hires Root Beer Extract and waited to attempt the experiment. Here’s the original recipe for pretty good gingerbread cookies (makes quite a bit):
- 1 cup of softened butter
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp of white vinegar
- 1 cup of dark molasses
- 5 cups of flour (you should probably sift it, but I don’t)
- 1.5 tsp of baking soda
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 2 tsp. powdered ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
Process is easy. Cream the butter and the sugar. Mix in the egg, vinegar, and molasses. Combine the dry ingredients and then add about 1/2 cup at a time to the wet ingredients while mixing slowly. I use a kitchenaid mixer on low. The dough should be fairly thick, but it depends on how soft/dense you like your cookies. Add more flour if you like them dense, add less if you like them a bit lighter. Cover the dough and refrigerate about an hour then roll out to about 1/8 of an inch, cut out shapes, place on parchment papered/silicone lined baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 6-10 minutes depending on how thick you rolled your dough and how big/small you cut your shapes.
Here’s the modification. If you want gingerbread cookies that taste like a root beer float, take out the molasses and replace it with corn syrup mixed with root beer concentrate. I only made half a batch, but I ended up putting in a full 8 tsp in the syrup to get the concentration I thought I’d need. If you’re making a full batch you might need up to 1/4 cup of root beer concentrate. Maybe even 1/3 cup. It’s a preference thing. I also used light corn syrup with vanilla flavoring. This was a total accident because I just didn’t read the bottle while purchasing it. I also needed to add a little extra flour. About 1/4 cup for the half batch. And I still used the whole egg. So, here’s what I would do if I were to do it again.
Root Beer Gingerbread Cookies:
- 1/2 cup of softened butter
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp of white vinegar
- Slightly less than 1/2 cup of light corn syrup. I might try 1/3 cup next time and see if it works.
- 3 tbsp of root beer concentrate (Hires worked for me)
- 3 cups of flour (this can vary a bit depending on how dense you want your cookies)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (this is to taste, so adjust up or down based on your preference)
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp. powdered ginger
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
Same process as before, basically. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg, vinegar, corn syrup and root beer concentrate (I mixed the root beer flavoring and corn syrup together first, but you probably don’t need to). Combine all your dry ingredients then incorporate gradually into the wet. Once the dough is mixed I cover with saran wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
I baked the cookies for exactly 7 minutes at 375, but depending on how thick you roll them out you may need to go up or down on time. I’m guessing I roll them out to about 1/8 inch (same as the recipe above). Don’t be afraid of a bit of extra flour at this stage. Sprinkle flour on your workstation, your rolling pin…it’s never been a problem for me. Roll it out, cut the shapes, smash it together, roll it out again. If it gets too sticky, either chill it again or add a bit more flour. I really wanted to drive home that root beer float flavor, so I made a royal icing with a bit of vanilla extract to pipe onto the cooled cookies. See below for that recipe:
Vanilla Royal Icing:
- 1 egg white
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp of light corn syrup
Stir the egg white into the powdered sugar with a fork. It won’t look like it’s going to mix, but just keep going. Beat the crap out of it with some electric beaters to get as much air into that mixture as you can (about 3 minutes). It’ll thicken up a bit and start to look like icing instead of goo. Add the corn syrup and beat another minute. I don’t know what this does, but it was part of a recipe I had, so I do it. You should really use whatever recipe for royal icing that you feel comfortable with. I actually think that whipping the egg whites a bit first and then adding the powdered sugar could make more sense.
That’s it. You can either make really good gingerbread cookies, or really good root beer gingerbread cookies. Your call. I’m not a baker, and this was purely an experiment, but if it works for you then I’ll call it a win. Other notes, this isn’t my gingerbread recipe. It was shared by my friend James Norton a long time ago and then slightly modified by me over the past several years. I also don’t care what type of root beer extract/concentrate you use. You can get some on Amazon or you can stop by a local home brewing supply shop near you. I’ve noticed that these cookies taste better after they’ve sat out and cooled down completely. They’re more subtle when they’re fresh and warm. I also wonder if adding a little bit of wintergreen extract/flavoring would be good. Maybe. Depends on your preference in root beer flavor, but I worry that it’ll end up tasting too toothpastey.
One more thing, I made some awesome designs on my first batch of gingerbread thanks to the help of a radical Etsy shop that sells custom cookie cutters. I had the seller print up some designs using my company’s logo and they turned out absolutely incredible. Definitely check out this shop if you’re in the market for some unique cutters. It was super affordable and I was incredibly impressed with how responsive and professional he was.