The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

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(Gluten-free) Gingerbread Cookies + Christmas Markets

Gluten-free Gingerbread Cookies | the year in food

At the end of October, I landed in blustery, rain-drenched Nuremberg in the full throes of season change. The air was a little bit wild with the sense of storm, and the sky was a patchwork of grays, and the sidewalk mottled with ruddy leaves in their annual transition to winter. This is my favorite kind of weather, and I was giddy, from lack of sleep, from the better-than-expected (but still awkward) conversation in the simplest of German with the taxi driver, from just being there, and most definitely by the weather.

Exploring the Nuremberg market | the year in food

I was invited there to go on a river cruise with Viking, a slow, delightful meander along the Danube. I arrived in Nuremberg a day early to wander on my own.

Exploring the Nuremberg market | the year in food

Gluten-free Gingerbread Cookies | the year in food

Nuremberg is famed for its Christmas market. And its Christmas market is famed for gluhwein, the German iteration of mulled wine sold at stalls throughout the old quarter, and lebkuchen, which are not exactly gingerbread cookies, but are similar in spirit, with their abundance of rich, warming spices. And while I was there before the Christmas market kicked into high gear, there was gluhwein, lebkuchen, and gingerbread houses, chocolate-covered marzipan, Christmas tchochkes and hallmarks all exuberantly on display. The market also held a cozy mix of chestnuts in their prickly shells, bright holiday wreaths heavy with nuts and berries and sprays of things, wild mushrooms pocked with pine needles and forest duff, obelisk-shaped cabbages, and intriguing varieties of winter squash. I wished, a little, for a lebkuchen to dip into some gluhwein. I wandered the maze of the old town happily lost. I took in the pointed skyline with its rust-colored roofs all sharply pitched toward the sky.

A market in Austria | the year in food

Gluten-free Gingerbread Cookies | the year in food

I’m excited to share more details about my voyage along the Danube soon, but for now, let’s get down to cookies. There is something about those intensely-spiced, fragrant old-world cookies that is so deeply evocative of everything I love about this season. It calls on the nostalgia of the past, on ritual, on warmth, and bringing sweetness and spice into the darkest part of the year. I wanted the spice qualities to be front and center, so I gave the ginger a generous boost. Scale it back if you prefer a mellower cookie. And there is nothing like the earthy flavor of molasses to both anchor and bring depth to these dudes. They taste better if you let them sit overnight. I have no idea why. But do it. It’s like all the spices settle into each other after a long night’s rest.

Gluten-free Gingerbread Cookies | the year in food


Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies
adapted from Minimalist Baker
Yield: about 36 to 48 small cookies

I was so intrigued by the addition of almond butter here. While you can’t really taste it, I completely love this as a way of reducing butter. (Though I do love butter, but I also love semi-wholesome treats.) The version that this is adapted from is vegan, if you want to go there, and I also think it’d be the easiest thing in the world to use regular flour if you have no reason to make them gluten-free. But really: let them sit overnight so that their flavors really develop. They softened overnight and tasted waaaaaaaay better.

1/2 stick butter, melted
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup almond butter
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 cups gluten-free baking mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 and it was perfect)

1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
1 tablespoon almond milk

Whisk together the butter and the egg. Add the brown sugar, molasses, almond butter, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda, and sea salt and combine. Sift in the flour and stir to thoroughly incorporate. The dough will be a touch sticky.

Form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least two hours, until completely cold. Overnight is ideal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using two pieces of parchment, roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thick. Working quickly, cut into preferred shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. (Alternately, you can roll it into a log, chill, and cut into slices that way. Simpler.)

Martha Stewart suggests that you chill the cut cookies again before baking, which I thought was fussy until I saw how much they lost their shape. So I recommend chilling the cookies in the freezer for another 15 minutes if you want to preserve the shapes.

Bake for about 6-8 minutes; they will still be soft. Chill in the fridge if you want to get to icing them more quickly.

Make the icing: combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon almond milk or milk of choice. Use a ziploc with the tiniest hole cut into one of the corners to apply the icing if you don’t have any fancy tools. (I don’t!)

Once the cookies have cooled to room temp, apply the icing. I’m terrible at this, but I think they make the cookie taste better, and the imperfect ones are endearing.

AND THEN THE HARD PART: Hide them from everybody for one day. I found that these were hard after an hour, but softened overnight into the perfect cookie. I also think that their taste and texture are better if stored at room temp. If you put them in the fridge, let them warm to room temperature before serving.

Gluten-free Gingerbread Cookies | the year in food

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - These are perfect for the holidays! Love :)ReplyCancel

  • thefolia - Oh boy oh boy more yummy treats to bake! Happy Holidays.ReplyCancel

  • Jacki - how beautiful! Does this shop have a website? I see several things I would love to order!
    Wonderful treatsReplyCancel

    • Kimberley - The shop was heaven! Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of it. Which is too bad!ReplyCancel

  • Ellie - Oh, these are beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • jenna @ just j.faye - I love German christmas markets and these cookies look spectacular! I’m so intrigued by the addition of almond butter in the dough!ReplyCancel

  • Ana - Oh the Christmas Markets are the one thing I miss most about Germany. There is nothing better during the Holiday time as to walk around, sip some hot chocolate, eat all the deliciousness and just have a good time. I was looking for a good recipe for gingerbread cookies and this one seams to be my favorite. :)ReplyCancel

  • Cindy - Your cookies look yum. But didn’t see where in the directions to add the flour.ReplyCancel

    • Kimberley - Thanks for catching that, Cindy. Right at the end. Fixed.ReplyCancel

  • Millie | Add A Little - These look so tasty and the fact that they’re gluten free makes it even better!ReplyCancel

  • Tammy - If you didn’t ‘t want to use a nut butter what would a substitute be?ReplyCancel

    • Kimberley - Good question, Tammy. The almond butter was a sub for regular or vegan butter, so I would use an equal quantity of that instead.ReplyCancel

  • Christie Dietz (Eating Wiesbaden) - Beautiful photos! It’s really lovely to see the Christmas markets through someone else’s eyes; I’ve been living in Germany for five years now and your images really capture the Christmas magic that I’ve just come to accept as standard at this time of year. So, thank you for that! And those gingerbread cookies sound fantastic. Pinned!ReplyCancel

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food - I can just smell these cookies baking.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your cruise. What a lovely experience that must’ve been.ReplyCancel

  • Gaby - Looks beautiful!! I love gingerbread and this time of year!!ReplyCancel

  • Liz @ Floating Kitchen - Oh how I would love to stroll through (and eat and drink my way through) those Christmas markets. They look absolutely heavenly. My dad’s side of the family is German and we made lebkuchen every year at Christmas. Hope you have a wonderful Holiday, Kimberley!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Jane - These GB cookies look so incredibly delicious, I can’t wait to try your recipe! And who cares if Christmas is over, I’m trying them anyways :) Wishing you a very happy New Year!ReplyCancel

  • kristie {birch and wild} - Love that these are gluten free! Your photos really capture the essence of the holidays; the warmth and jovial attitude.ReplyCancel

  • Frances - I might try these even though it’s not Christmas any more!ReplyCancel

  • Maria - Just made these cookies today (doubled the recipe) and they came out great! A bit tricky to transfer onto the sheet after cutting them with a cookie cutter, but they taste so good! Thanks!ReplyCancel

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