Some like snap, others like chewy, but when it comes to building with gingerbread dough, everyone will agree it needs to be strong—and spicy!
¼ cup (56g) soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp kosher (sea) salt
4 oz (115g) corn syrup
1½ oz (45g) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
6¼ oz (175g) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more for dusting
Preparation: Trim a sheet of parchment paper to fit the base of a half-sheet pan. Preheat to 350°F/175°C/Gas mark 4 and move rack to lower middle oven.
1 Combine sugar, spices, salt, corn syrup, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low until smooth, then sprinkle in flour and continue mixing to form a stiff dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Do not overwork. Proceed immediately or wrap in plastic and set aside at room temperature until needed (up to 24 hours).
2 Dust prepared parchment with flour, place dough on top, and flatten into a rectangle. Dust with more flour and roll to fit just within the edges of the parchment, leaving dough about 3/16 inch (5mm) thick. Using both hands, transfer parchment to a half-sheet pan. Cut according to your template. Leave a narrow border of dough around cutouts to minimize spreading, but trim away larger areas of excess dough to gather and reroll.
3 Bake gingerbread until dry to the touch and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Immediately cut along pre-scored lines with a sharp knife or pizza wheel. Cool completely in pan then transfer cutouts to your worktop. Enjoy the scraps—cook’s perk!
4 Return spare pieces of uncooked cookie dough to mixing bowl and resume mixing on low speed. Add water, 1 tsp at a time, until you have a pipable paste. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip to pipe more delicate designs onto a parchment-lined half-sheet pan and bake until pale gold, about 12 minutes. Cool completely before handling. Assemble your design with royal icing.