I never hung gingerbread cookies on my Christmas trees as a kid, but I always liked the idea of edible Christmas decorations. A Christmas tree that is covered with homemade gingerbread cookies seems both elegant and delicious – and I’ve taken that idea just one step further with my Gingerbread Cookie Garland. This garland is made by stringing crispy gingerbread cookies together. You can drape it around your tree, or hang it from a light fixture for a fun decoration. However you want to present it, it’s definitely a fun (and tasty) baking project to take on during the holidays.
The cookies are a very simple gingerbread that is made with brown sugar, molasses and plenty of spices. They have a warm gingerbread flavor and a light, crispy texture if you opt to snack on one or two while you are working. The dough is prepared in advance and chilled, so it is easier to roll out and cut into shapes for creating the garland. I have all kinds of holiday cookie cutters and anything from a gingerbread man to a snowflake to a snowman would be a good choice for this kind of garland. I kept things simple by choosing a Christmas tree cutter that needed no additional decorations.
To make your garland work, you need to make sure that you bake these cookies until they’re crispy. They will bake until they are crisp without burning and will feel firm, but not hard, when they come out of the oven. Softer, chewier gingerbread cookies won’t be sturdy enough to string together like the crispier cookies. I sometimes bake two batches – one extra crispy and one just crispy – so that I have one to string into a garland and one to snack on. You can, of course, snack on the garland cookies, but if you’re actually using them as a decoration they might become slightly stale after a day or two of being hung up.
The holes in the cookies should be punched with a pastry tip or a very thick, sturdy straw, and the holes should be punched before baking and re-punched after baking to ensure that you get a very neat, clean hole for your ribbon. A metal tip tends to be best, especially for re-punching the holes after baking, but a very sturdy straw will get the job done nicely, as well. If you are unsure about what size your holes should be, bake one or two test cookies to double check. You can use any size cookie cutter, though keep in mind that the larger your cookies, the larger your ribbon should be to support them. I used 3-inch tree cutters and a ribbon that was about 1/3-inch thick worked perfectly. Make sure you leave extra ribbon at each and of the garland so that you can hang it up easily!
The garland will keep well when on display (though the cookies will be stale if you try to eat them!) for at least a week, and possibly up to two weeks if it is not humid where you live. You can store the garland in a ziploc bag to preserve its freshness while it is not on display, as well. If you want to eat you’re cookies, they will also keep for up to a week, but should be kept in an airtight container at all times to preserve their crispness before serving.
Gingerbread Cookie Garland
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light. Beat in molasses until well incorporated. Gradually blend in the flour mixture until the dough comes completely together (it may seem crumbly at first), about 2 minutes.
Pat dough into a large disc and wrap in plastic wrap or place in a ziploc bag. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough until it is no more than 1/4 inch thick. Add more flour if dough is sticky. Cut out desired shapes with a lightly floured cookie cutter (recommend 3-inch cutter) and transfer to baking sheet.
Re-roll remaining cookie dough and repeat.
Use a large pastry tip or a sturdy straw and punch two button-like holes 1/2 to 1-inch apart roughly 1/3 of the way down the cookie cutout.
Bake for 11-14 minutes, until cookies are dark golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. Re-punch holes with your pastry tip or straw while cookies are fresh from the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
When cookies have cooled completely, string them together with ribbon of choice. You can make several short garlands or one long one.
Makes about 40 cookies.