The Surprising Ingredient Your Gingerbread Cookies Are Missing

After Halloween and Thanksgiving and all the candy and pumpkin pie eating that they bring, everyone's in a bit of a ... sugar coma. This is why when Christmas comes around and brings with it another month of candies, cakes, and cookies, it can be a welcome change to swap the sugar for a bit of heat and spice. Luckily, whoever invented gingerbread cookies certainly knew what a Halloween and Thanksgiving-induced sugar rush feels like. It also helps that they're appropriately festive and great for decorating with kids.

The author of "The Flavor Equation" cookbook, Nik Sharma, finds that gingerbread cookies — when done right — are perfect to go with a cup of tea or coffee, especially over the wintry holidays. Per a recipe shared on his blog, Sharma writes that he likes to pack as much of the ginger flavor into his gingerbread cookies as possible, so he uses not one, not two, but three forms of ginger in his cookies: ground dried ginger, freshly grated ginger, and crystallized ginger. Each form of ginger, he explains, adds a different kind of heat and sweetness to the cookies due to the different ways in which the ginger is processed.

Besides the three different sources of ginger, there's one other surprising ingredient that Sharma recommends adding to gingerbread cookies, which, he says, "helps tie the heat from the different forms of ginger together."

You should add one more source of heat to your gingerbread cookies

When using three different kinds of ginger in your gingerbread cookies, Sharma recommends adding one more ingredient that will bring it all together: black pepper (via Nik Sharma's This Is A Cook Letter). Much like what chilies do, heat from foods like ginger and black pepper may irritate the mouth, but it is received as a pleasurable sensation by the body — which is why people tend to like heat. According to Sharma, the combination of these ingredients will make the gingerbread cookies a lot more flavorful and yummy.

Sharma recommends adding the black pepper freshly ground from peppercorns that are stored in a cool place away from any light. This is because black pepper contains piperine — the substance that makes black pepper pungent — which is sensitive to light and can cause the pepper to lose its sought-after kick when stored in light and for a long time. When ground fresh, black pepper will add heat, no doubt, but will also add some fruitiness and a touch of bright flavor to the cookies (via Simply Recipes).

When it comes to pairing the ginger and black pepper with a source of sweetness to compliment the heat and spice, Sharma recommends using demerara sugar along with either unsulfured molasses or date syrup. Because of the large crystals, demerara sugar tends to hold shape whilst baking, forming a crunchy layer on top of the cookies (via Olive Magazine), while molasses makes cookies chewier from the inside (via Kitchn).

Now that you have a freshly baked batch of sweet and spicy gingerbread cookies, Mashed has the perfect way to store them until Christmas for optimal taste and freshness.