Gingerbread cookies are a holiday favorite for many. They are tasty, fun to design, and a nostalgic nod to centuries past—in fact, gingerbread has been a treat since 2400 BC, and making the cookies is a festive activity that families enjoy worldwide. But why do gingerbread cookies crack so often?
Here are five reasons why your gingerbread cookies may crack:
- The recipe you used did not call for the right ingredients.
- The cookies were overbaked.
- Cheap cookie cutters cracked the dough.
- You rolled the cookie dough too thin.
- You did not chill the dough before rolling it.
Let’s explore some of the common reasons why your gingerbread cookies may be cracking.
1. The Recipe You Used Did Not Call for the Right Ingredients
There are many reasons that your gingerbread cookies may crack, but one of the biggest culprits is likely the recipe that you are using. There are countless gingerbread cookie recipes available online, and some are much better than others. A few critical ingredients may get left out or replaced in specific recipes, which can have catastrophic effects on your gingerbread cookies.
Here are a few recipe factors that may make your gingerbread cookies crack:
- The recipe you used did not call for enough butter, or any at all.
- You forgot to put an egg in the gingerbread cookie recipe.
- The recipe excluded molasses.
These three ingredients—butter, egg, and molasses—are the most common ingredients that will cause your gingerbread cookies to crack when left out or not used properly. Still, they are not the only ingredients that can cause this problem to happen.
Make sure to choose a good recipe when making your gingerbread cookies. Ask a friend, relative, or local chef what some of their tried and true recipes are for gingerbread cookies.
Finding the right recipe can make all the difference in the world on how your cookies look and hold up to the rigors of designing and storing. Experiment with different recipes to find one that yields the most crack-free cookies.
2. The Cookies Were Overbaked
Overbaking is one of the most common mistakes any home cook makes, especially when it comes to cookies. This common mistake is especially common during the busy holiday season when gingerbread cookies are most often made. At this time, you already have so many distractions happening in and out of the kitchen.
If you leave your cookies in the oven for too long, they will dry out and have a less flexible texture. Your gingerbread cookies will be much more delicate once they dry and can be prone to cracking if they get bumped when stored, designed, or handled shortly before eating them.
Because gingerbread cookies go through a lot of handling when you draw their faces, outfits, and overall design, you want to make sure that your cookie is not overbaked. Set a timer, make sure the oven is at the correct heat, and you should have gingerbread that does not crack.
3. Cheap Cookie Cutters Cracked the Dough
When you make gingerbread cookies, you probably like to use a cookie-cutter in the shape of a person’s silhouette. There are many different cookie cutters on the market, but not all of them will give you the same results when you go to shape your gingerbread cookies.
Choosing a cookie cutter with very sharp edges is essential to get the right shape for your gingerbread cookies.
Using a well-made cookie cutter with sharp edges will give you far better results with your cookie. If you use a cheap cookie cutter with dull edges, your cookies will be much more apt to break. Just like using a dull knife on fruit or vegetables, using a cookie cutter that is not sharp will lead to smashing, cracking, and breaking your gingerbread cookies.
Choose a well-crafted cookie cutter to get the best results for your cookies. The Ann Clark Happy Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutter (available on Amazon.com) has a reputation for being sharp enough to give you the desired stability for your gingerbread cookies.
4. You Rolled the Cookie Dough Too Thin
Rolling cookie dough is a fun part of the process, but it takes experience and skill to do it correctly. Rolling your dough too thin is one of the most frequent causes of cookies not coming out the way you want them. Making sure your dough is not too thin is especially true with gingerbread cookies and can be a huge problem when you need your cookies to be uniform and sturdy enough to paint them with frosting later.
The best height for rolling your gingerbread cookie dough is approximately ⅛ inch (3 mm). This height will give you cookies that have just the right thickness for an excellent overall mouthfeel, and they will be sturdy enough not to crack. Any thinner than this and the chances of your gingerbread cookies cracking will be much higher.
You can always roll your dough a little bit thicker if you want to ensure your cookies aren’t too thin after baking. Feel free to experiment with different dough heights to find what works best for you.
5. You Did Not Chill the Dough Before Rolling It
Many people skip one crucial step when making gingerbread cookies: chill the dough before using the rolling pin and shaping the cookies.
You need to chill the dough before shaping it in order for everything to mix together correctly and uniformly. Making sure everything is blended is especially important for the liquid components of your cookie dough. According to King Arthur Flour, putting your dough in the refrigerator gives the sugar time to absorb the wet ingredients.
When your cookies haven’t had enough time to chill, they are more vulnerable to spreading. Spreading is not only visually unappealing for your gingerbread cookies, but it can also have an impact on their durability. If your cookies spread and are no longer a uniform shape, they are prone to being too thin and breaking in some areas.