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Sourdough Gingerbread Cookies Recipe [with Discard]

What says Christmas more than gingerbread cookies. These classic cookies are a fun way to celebrate the holiday season. You can make simple cut out cookies and decorate them, or you can get more extravagant and make a gingerbread house filled with gingerbread people that represent your family members. This sourdough gingerbread cookie recipe is one I personally had a lot of fun creating and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Happy baking!

sourdough gingerbread cookies on plate with christmas decor in background.

Why I Love This Recipe

I love cookies. Any kind of cookie. If you spend any time looking through this site, you will see that I have LOTS of sourdough cookies recipes (like my sourdough thumbprints, snickerdoodles, and oatmeal raisin cookies to name a few).

This sourdough gingerbread cookie recipe is one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes because they not only taste great, but they are a great way to be creative and have a fun family-friendly activity. You can get your kids (or other family and friends) involved with cutting out the fun cookie shapes or decorating them with icing. 

This recipe is also a great way to use up your sourdough discard because it uses an entire cup of sourdough starter discard. 

These cookies are super flavorful from the ginger spice and have a firm enough texture that allows them to hold their shape, but also a slightly soft interior. If you want super soft and chewy ginger cookies, I will redirect you to my sourdough ginger molasses cookies (seriously you need to try these cookies). 

Equipment

Here’s what you need to make these sourdough gingerbread cookies:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Medium bowl
  • Stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer
  • Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
  • A large baking sheet
  • Wire rack
  • Cookie cutters: Whatever shape you like, just make sure they are them metal kind that you can easily push out the dough from. I was shocked that in my collection of cookie cutters I didn’t have any gingerbread men! I’ll have to purchase one for the future. I used lots of other fun Christmas shapes though, including Christmas trees, stars, mittens, and candy canes. 
  • Rolling pin
  • Plastic wrap
  • Whisk/fork and small bowl
  • A piping bag or ziplock bag
  • Parchment paper (optional)

Ingredients

Sourdough gingerbread cookie ingredients in individual measuring cups and bowls.

All purpose flour: I do not recommending substituting whole wheat flour for these cookies as the whole wheat could make them drier and therefore more crumbly. 

Salt

Spices: These cookies contain several warming spices including cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and black pepper. 

Butter: This recipe calls for unsalted butter but you can use salted butter as well. 

Brown sugar: Brown sugar adds extra color and moisture. 

Molasses: Use unsulphured molasses rather than blackstrap molasses, which is more bitter. If you are interested in the differences between these types of molasses, I discuss it in greater detail in my ginger molasses sourdough cookie recipe. 

Egg

Sourdough discard: You can use active starter or unfed sourdough starter discard from the fridge. I recommend using 100% hydration starter. This simply means that you have been feeding it equal parts flour and water (in grams). If your starter is higher hydration, just add a bit more flour to the discard you plan to use. 

Vanilla extract: I recommend pure vanilla extract rather than imitation vanilla for the best flavor. 

You may have noticed that there is no other leavening agent besides the sourdough starter. We want these sourdough gingerbread cookies to hold their shape when baked so we don’t use baking soda or baking powder. Both of these ingredients would cause some spread of the cookies, resulting in less crisp and well defined cookie shapes.

How to Make Sourdough Discard Gingerbread Cookies

These cookies need time to chill so make sure you set aside some time ahead of when you plan to make them.

Make the Dough

Image shows four steps to make sourdough gingerbread cookie dough. The top left shows a mixing bowl with the dry ingredients ready to be mixed. The top right shows the butter creamed together with the sugar suing the paddle attachment in a stand mixer. The bottom left shows the wet ingredients mixed in the stand mixer. The bottom right shows the finished dough with the dry ingredients added in the mixer.

Step 1: Whisk together the dry ingredients in medium bowl. 

Step 2: In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), cream together the sugar and butter using the paddle attachment on medium speed. 

Step 3: Add the rest of the wet ingredients and continue to mix until fully combined. 

Step 4: On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just fully combined. 

Chill the Dough

Step 5: Turn the dough out onto floured surface and cut into two equal sized pieces of cookie dough. Using floured hands, shape each half into an approximate 6×1.5 inch disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3-4 hours or overnight if you want to do a long ferment. 

sourodugh gingerbread cookie dough divided into two discs and wrapped in plastic wrap.

This dough will be quite sticky so it is very important to chill it so that it can more easily be rolled out and cut without sticking to your work surface or the cookie cutters. 

Cut the Cookies and Bake

Step 6: When you are ready to use the dough, preheat the oven to 375F. 

Step 7: Remove the gingerbread dough from the fridge and roll out one of the discs on a generously floured surface or parchment paper. You want the dough to be about an 1/8-1/4 of an inch thick (or 3-5 mm for those of you who use the metric system) depending on how thick you want your cookies. 

Step 8: Now comes the fun part. Use metal cookie cutters to cut out your cookies. Try to space them as close together as possible to maximize the number of cookies you get. 

A hand cutting out gingerbread cookie dough with cookie cutters.

A Few Notes About this Step: 

  • 1. Save the scraps of dough by rolling back into a ball and chilling in the fridge in plastic wrap while you work on rolling out and cutting the other disc of cookie dough. 
  • Roll out your ball of scraps and continue cutting out your cookie shapes until you have used all the dough. 
  • 2. The dough will start to get sticky again once it warms up. Use more flour as needed to prevent sticking. 
  • 3. If the dough is too hard to roll out directly from the fridge, you can let it sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before rolling it out. This will allow it to soften it enough to make it easier to roll into a thin sheet of cookie dough without straining your arms too much. 

Step 9: Once you have cut all your cookies, place them about 1 inch apart on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

You can adjust the baking time to achieve your desired texture. If you want your cookies to have a chewy texture, err on the side of less baking. If you want them to be firm (better for building a gingerbread house, you want to bake them longer.

Depending on how many cookies you have, you may need to work in batches. I usually use two cookie sheets so I can speed up the process. 

Step 10: Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before adding your icing (wait a few minutes before transferring to the cooling rack though!). 

Ice the Cookies

sourdough gingerbread cookies on plate with christmas decor in background.

You have several options for icing your cookies. You can buy pre-made icing from the store, or you can make your own homemade icing. Royal icing is beautiful and will result in the cleanest result in terms of appearance. That being said, I personally don’t use royal icing because some of the people who will be eating my cookies have egg allergies. Instead, I make a simple egg free icing that only needs three ingredients and still tastes really good: 

Step 11: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons milk, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. 

You can adjust the amount of powdered sugar as needed to achieve your desired consistency. You  want the icing to be smooth, not cracking or crumbly, and soft enough to work with without being runny. 

Step 12: Spoon the icing into a piping bag. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a ziplock bag. Scoop the icing into the bag, trying to guide it down towards one of the bottom corners of the bag. Try to press out as much air from the bag as you can, then seal the bag. Use scissors to cut off a very small piece of the corner (approximately 1-2 mm) that you guided the icing toward. You have now created your own homemade piping bag! 

Step 13: Use your piping bag to decorate and ice each cookie. Allow the icing to dry out completely for a few hours before serving.

Iced sourdough gingerbread cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

How to Store Sourdough Gingerbread Cookies

Store any leftover cookies on a plate wrapped with plastic wrap or in an airtight container. They are best if consumed within 1 week. 

Can You Freeze These Cookies?

You can freeze these sourdough discard gingerbread cookies however I recommend waiting to ice them until you are ready to eat them. 

Simply store the un-frosted cookies in a freezer safe gallon bag and defrost when you are ready to consume. 

I recommend freezing them for no longer than 2-3 months. 

I hope you enjoyed this simple gingerbread recipe. If you are interested in receiving more recipes straight to your inbox, I would love it if you joined my email list. Otherwise , you can also find more sourdough discard recipes right here:

Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies with Brown Butter

Sourdough Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sourdough Discard Chocolate Biscotti

Close up of sourdough gingerbread cookies on plate with christmas decor in background.

Sourdough Gingerbread Cookies

These sourdough discard gingerbread cookies are a fun way to celebrate the holiday season with your loved ones. Cut out these cookies into your favorite shapes and get creative with decorating. The whole family will have a blast making these cookies.36
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Chill Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 37 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 36
Calories 118 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

Dry Ingredients

  • cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • teaspoon black pepper

Wet Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sourdough discard
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Icing

  • cup powdered sugar
  • tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar using the paddle attachment on medium speed.
  • Add the remaining wet ingredients and continue mixing until fully combined.
  • On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined and pulling away from the edges of the bowl.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal halves.
  • Shape each half of dough into an approximate 4 inch disc and wrap each with plastic wrap. Note that the dough will be quite sticky so flouring your hands can help.
  • Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours or overnight if you prefer a long ferment.

When Ready to Bake

  • When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350℉.
  • Use a floured rolling pin to roll out each disc on a generously floured surface. You want the cookies to be between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick (3-5 mm).
  • Use cookie cutters to cut out the cookie dough shapes. Carefully peel off the dough surrounding the cut out shapes and gently lift the cookies from your work surface. Save the scraps of dough and roll into a ball to continue to roll the dough out and use up all the dough.
  • Place the cookies on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper about an inch apart.
  • Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the cookies are slightly firm but still give when pressed.
  • Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

When Ready to Ice

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the icing ingredients until completely smooth. The icing should be soft and smooth but not runny. Add a little more milk or powdered sugar to achieve your desired consistency.
  • Use a spoon to scoop the icing into a piping bag. If you do not have a piping bag, cut off the very tip of a plastic ziplock bag to make your own.
  • Decorate each cookie, then allow the icing to dry out completely before storing.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookieCalories: 118kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 1gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 70mgPotassium: 58mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 125IUVitamin C: 0.01mgCalcium: 14mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Cookies, Sourdough, Sourdough Discard
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