The Reason You Should Refrigerate Gingerbread Dough Before Baking It

Gingerbread cookies are a holiday classic. Whether you break out the gingerbread man cookie cutter or are in the mood to create the ultimate gingerbread house, this beloved classic brings joy to those who decorate them, as well as to those who eat them. Not to mention, these cookies are packed with sweet molasses and some of the most aromatic spices that will fill every nook of your kitchen for days on end after baking them. In fact, we love making gingerbread cookies so much, we can't wait to bake them and savor their chewy and crunchy goodness. Unfortunately, skipping the direction that says to chill the dough for a couple of hours before rolling it out is really not optional. We will go even further to say, it's actually a really bad idea. Others have tried it and failed for you. So, what's the reason you should refrigerate gingerbread dough before baking it?

First, if you roll out the dough without refrigerating it, the dough will crack and what's worse than the cracked dough is when you pull your cookies out of the oven only to find puffy, oversized, blob shapes that look nothing like the cute little cookie cutter shapes you cut out (via Delish). It makes you realize that the refrigeration step is a must. But what's happening to the dough during that cooling period? 

Chilling your dough solidifies the fat so your gingerbread men don't become blobs

Why does chilling your gingerbread dough ensure your cookies won't become shapeless blobs? King Arthur Baking notes that when you refrigerate your cookie dough, you are allowing the fats to solidify. So, when you bake your cookies, the fat is going to remain solid longer, which in turn helps your gingerbread men and women keep their shapes. And to take the science of cooking a little further, they explain that the sugar also soaks up the liquid ingredients while it is chilling in the frig which also slows the spread. But that's not the only reason to refrigerate your gingerbread dough. 

Chilling cookie dough causes the dough to dry out which sounds like a bad thing, but it's not. This process actually enhances the flavor of the cookies, making them even sweeter and more intense for your taste buds. The drying out process also helps you obtain that chewy on the inside, crispy on the edges texture that makes these cookies so delicious. Bottom line, if you skip the chill, you will miss the thrill of decorating perfectly shaped gingerbread cookie cutter shaped cookies.