Is My Gingerbread Dough Too Dry?

Hello,

I've never baked with gingerbread dough before, but thought I'd give it a try this week. I used Julia's recipe (https://www.juliausher.com/blo...t_cookie_gingerbread) and weighed all my ingredients. I followed Julia's video, and my dough looked the same before refrigeration. After refrigeration my dough is really dry. It cracks quite a bit when I roll it. I have to knead it a bit to warm it up, and then it stops cracking. But I think warming it up encourages it to puff and spread more, which prevents nice contouring of my imprints.  I also noticed that when working with leftover dough pieces, it is very difficult to form them into a smooth shape again. The leftover dough is very flaky and I need to press it in place quite a bit before it starts to behave. Overall, this is just not what I am used to, and am wondering if this is expected from gingerbread dough. It is possible that it dried out in the fridge because I wrapped it only in plastic, and not in foil, but this much drying seems odd? I also live in a very dry climate.

For reference, I am accustomed to working with a sugar cookie dough that contains butter and cream cheese.

Original Post

You might have to work the dough a little bit once it comes out of the fridge to warm it up, but not much. You can also roll it immediately without chilling it at all. You should also be able to get multiple rolls out of it as long as you don't over-dust your surface with flour. It sounds like you either mis-measured something (too much flour, perhaps) or it dried out in the fridge. I instruct to wrap it in plastic and then foil, always.

Also, it may be a bit stiffer than a cream cheese and butter-based dough, but not much. The recipe has shortening in it, and that will not get hard the way butter does when refrigerated.

If you want to keep an impression in the dough, I would suggest removing some of the leavening and baking the dough in the mold (if possible). The chilling of the dough has little impact on spread; spread is mostly controlled by the leavening in this recipe.

Julia M. Usher posted:

If you want to keep an impression in the dough, I would suggest removing some of the leavening and baking the dough in the mold (if possible). The chilling of the dough has little impact on spread; spread is mostly controlled by the leavening in this recipe.

So, if you don’t need cold dough to prevent spreading, the only reason to chill the dough right after mixing is to get the flavors to meld? I did notice that the flavors became milder between the first and second bakes (with 24 and 48 hours in the fridge).

AnyaS posted:
Julia M. Usher posted:

If you want to keep an impression in the dough, I would suggest removing some of the leavening and baking the dough in the mold (if possible). The chilling of the dough has little impact on spread; spread is mostly controlled by the leavening in this recipe.

So, if you don’t need cold dough to prevent spreading, the only reason to chill the dough right after mixing is to get the flavors to meld? I did notice that the flavors became milder between the first and second bakes (with 24 and 48 hours in the fridge).

No, I find the dough is (1) a little easier to handle and roll when it is slightly chilled and (2) the flavors become more fully developed/rounder (not milder, in my opinion) when the spices sit in the dough longer. 

A dough's formulation has more to do with its spreading than chilling does. If a dough has (1) a high ratio of flour to fat; (2) a relatively small amount of leavening; and (3) a higher ratio of shortening than butter, it will spread less. (Butter has a lower melting point than shortening, so doughs with butter, all else being the same, spread more.) My dough is formulated to spread very little, especially when the leavening is reduced in half, as I often do for contoured or embossed cookies. As such, whether I chill it or not, does not affect spreading that much. It may make the dough slightly easier to handle, but spreading is hardly impacted by chilling it in my experience. I have an entire video that shows the effect of some of these recipe variables on spreading.

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