Merry Christmas, y’all! I am so excited to share today’s recipe with you. Not only is this one of my favorite cookies ever but these bears bring back some of my most cherished family memories.
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Also, stay tuned below for links to some other great gingerbread recipes!
Now I know what some of you might be thinking, Gingerbears? What ever happened to gingerbread men? Well, in my house it has always been about the bears. It started with one of the greatest Christmas books of all time, “The Gingerbears First Christmas”.
The Gingerbears First Christmas
It’s an old Christmas book written by Nancy P. McConnell in 1983. My siblings and I were all captivated by the story year after year and now my children are as well. It’s an enchanting tale about a busy family in the week leading up to Christmas. One night, the children are rolling out gingerbread and decided to use a bear cookie cutter instead of the gingerbread man cutter. Their mother ends up sending them to bed before they’ve finished and because the parents are so busy no one remembers to clean up the prepped but unbaked bears. That night the bears come to life and set about the house helping out with all of the Christmas tasks, finishing homemade gifts, washing dishes, wrapping presents, ect. Each day they hide and sleep while the family is awake and at night they return to their helpful secret chores. On Christmas Eve, Santa comes and bestows a red heart on each of them for all of their hard work. Its the perfect tale of selfless giving and acts of kindness with just a touch of Christmas magic.
So, it’s easy to see why, in our house, we always chose to make bears.
Of course, ours always had a red heart bestowed on them prior to baking, instead of waiting for Christmas Eve but other than that they looks just like the ones in our magical Christmas story book.
Which brings us to one of my favorite childhood recipes, the Gingerbears. To make these scrumptious bundles of adorableness, you will need:
- 1/2 C shortening
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1/2 C dark molasses
- 1/4 C water
- 2 1/2 C flour
- 3/4 t salt
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 3/4 t ginger
- 1/4 t nutmeg
- 1/8 t allspice
- cinnamon hearts
You start by creaming the shortening and sugar. You can do this by hand or using a handheld mixer but I always prefer to use my stand kitchen aid mixer.
Next, you add in the molasses and water and mix them in.
Then you add in your dry ingredients. Personally, I always mix these directly in my sifter, but you can always use a bowl to mix them in if you prefer. First, I fill my sifter with my flour and then I add all of my other dry ingredients on top of that. That way, when I sift in my flour, my other seasonings and leaveners get mixed in.
Mix until incorporated and your dough is complete.
You can roll your dough out right away, but I find that it behaves much better if I chill it first, so I prefer to wrap it in wax paper and place it in a zip lock bag in my fridge for an hour, or honestly, until whenever I get back to it.
Once the dough is chilled, it behaves beautifully. I still prefer to roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper but you certainly don’t need to.
How to keep cut out cookies from sticking
To roll the dough out my way, divide your dough into two balls. Lightly coat one ball with flour and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top and roll out your dough using a rolling pin. I periodically flip it or rotate it as needed in the rolling out process until its about 1/8th-1/4″ thick.
Next, I peel off the top layer of parchment paper, then place it back in place and flip the whole stack (the parchment, dough, and parchment layers together) over. Now, I again peel back the top layer of parchment paper and begin cutting out my bears. Because I already loosened the parchment paper that is now the bottom layer, the bears lift off with extreme ease and transfer beautifully to the baking sheet every time.
Once on the baking sheet its time to add their adorable accessories. I start first with the muzzle. I roll a small ball of dough and place it where the nose would be. Then I take a raisin and cut it into 4 pieces using a pair of kitchen sheers or a knife. I love using my kitchen sheers for this because they come apart into two pieces for washing. They’re hands down my most used kitchen item and make for a great stocking stuffer for just about anyone on your list. They function like scissors but wash like two knives!
Once I have my quarter pieces of raisin, I place one on the muzzle for a nose and one for each of the eyes. Then I take my cinnamon candy heart and press it into the left side of my bears chest.
Now, all that’s left is to bake them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-12 minutes.
Just like that, your magical gingerbear cookies are done! Now, its time to enjoy them with family, friends, and neighbors.
These make for an amazing cookie to bring to a cookie exchange party as well. They hold the bear shape well but are still soft and chewy and with the added cinnamon heart they’re absolutely delicious! They are hands down my favorite cookie, pairing beautifully with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup dark molasses
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup cinnamon hearts
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cream shortening and sugar.
- Blend in molasses and water.
- Sift together remaining dry ingredients and mix into creamed mixture.
- Wrap in wax paper/ziplock bag and chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
- Divide mixture into two balls of dough.
- Roll ball to lightly coat in flour and roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper to about 1/8th-1/4" thick.
- Peel back top layer of parchment paper.
- Replace top layer of parchment paper and flip dough and both layers of parchment paper over.
- Remove new top layer of parchment paper.
- Cut out bear shapes using a bear cookie cutter.
- Place bear cookies on cookie sheet. Leave a little room between them for them to expand some in the oven.
- Roll a small ball of dough for the muzzle and press in place.
- Cut raisins into quarter pieces and place two for the eyes and one for the nose on top of the muzzle.
- Place one candy heart on the left side of each bears chest.
- Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-12 minutes.
Be sure to check out these other great gingerbread recipes from some of my favorite bakers.
Ginger Banana Bread at The House on Silverado
Gingerbread Biscoti from Cloches and Lavender: These gingerbread biscotti with white chocolate smell and taste like Christmas. Biscotti are easy to make and are great for a crowd. These freeze well to. Make them in advance for less stress
This Gingerbread Man Cake from the Zucchini Sisters: This gingerbread man cake is cute and tasty! He is sure to delight the kids and will become a festive addition to your holiday celebration.