Gingerbread men (and gingerbread ladies) are one of my favorite types of cookies to bake during the holiday season. That being said, I don’t always use my gingerbread man cookie cutters on gingerbread cookie dough. I used them on a wide variety of cut out cookies because they’re so much fun to decorate. These Coffee Cinnamon Gingerbread Men are not gingerbread-flavored cookies. Instead, they’re spiked with coffee and ground cinnamon for a cookie that will remind you of some of your favorite coffee shop drinks.
The cookie dough is easy to make and comes together in just a few minutes. I like this dough because it doesn’t need to be chilled before you work with it, though you can refrigerate it for a few hours if you don’t want to use it right away. The dough is easy to work with and can handle a little extra flour from the countertop you’re rolling it out on without getting too tough. That being said, if your kitchen is warm (say, for instance, you’ve already baked a few batches of cookies), you’re going to want to chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
The coffee flavor in the dough comes from coffee extract. I use Trablit Coffee Extract, which packs a really rich coffee flavor into anything that you use it in. I chose not to use instant coffee alone because it doesn’t always incorporate smoothly into a cookie dough like this one, leaving bits of coffee visible in the finished cookies. There are several other brands of coffee extract out there, but you can make a substitute by dissolving 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder in 2 tsp hot water if you don’t have any to work with. The coffee flavor needs to be potent to flavor the dough, so err on the side of a little extra and not a little less.
The yield from this recipe will vary based on the size of the cookie cutters that you use. I find that my gingerbread men are average-sized, so consider the number that I got to be an estimate. Try to bake cookies of the same size together for the most even baking, if you are using a variety of cookie cutters with this recipe. When the dough is rolled out to 1/4-inch thick, the cookies will be chewy and a bit softer. When the dough is rolled out thinner, the cookies will be crisper. It can be difficult to check for doneness in a brown cookie dough, so lightly touch the edges of the cookies to see if they feel firm before pulling them out of the oven.
Allow the cookies to cool completely before frosting. I used a simple mixture of icing sugar, vanilla and water to decorate these cookies (sweet, easy and dries quickly), but the dough isn’t overly sweet and it can stand up to a royal icing if you want to get more elaborate with your decorations. While I made most of my cookies look fairly “classic,” I played up the coffee them by giving a few of them Starbucks-like cups (complete with a green circle, made out of a sprinkle) to hold!!! No matter how you decorate them, allow the cookies to sit out for several hours to dry before storing them in an airtight container.
Coffee Cinnamon Gingerbread Men
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 – 2 1/2 tsp coffee extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla extract, coffee extract, cinnamon and salt.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend in the flour until it is completely incorporated and the dough comes together into a smooth ball.
Divide dough in half and gently knead if dough is not completely smooth.
Place half of the dough on a well-floured work surface and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes with large (2 1/2 – 3-inch) cookie cutters and transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet. Gather and reroll cookie dough scraps. Repeat with second half of the cookie dough.
Chill cut out cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before baking.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie, until cookies are set and very lightly browned around the edges.
Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen large cookies.
Confectioners’ Sugar Icing
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp (approximately) water or milk
In a medium bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and 3 tbsp water. Whisk until mixture starts to come together. Add additional water, as needed, until icing is very smooth and thick enough to pipe. Stiffer icing is ideal for outlines, while thinner icing is best for “flooding” large areas.
Transfer icing into a piping bag or a ziploc with a very small hole cut into one corner to pipe.