Soft and chewy, with a rich spice flavor, Iced Gingerbread Bars are an old-fashioned cookie that will rock your holiday cookie tray.
The holidays can be a fun time to reminisce. Yes, pull up a chair and remind your cousin how pregnant she was a few Christmases ago. And, of course, if you’re a food blogger, the memories will certainly include food!
In my youth, Grandma’s Iced Gingerbread Bars were a highlight of the season. But after she died, no one had made then successfully. Including me.
But this year I was determined. With notes from my previous failures and a tip from my mother, I finally got it.
My husband was delighted. With their soft homespun goodness and mildly sweet spiced flavor, even this non-sweet-eater was soon a (raving) fan. I did make him save the last two for me!
What is Gingerbread
According to Wikipedia, “Gingerbread refers to a broad category of baked goods, typically flavored with ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar, or molasses. Gingerbread foods vary, ranging from a soft, moist loaf cake to forms nearly as crisp as a ginger snap.”
Now some people have very strong feelings about whether gingerbread should be hard or soft. I happen to love soft cake-like gingerbread like these Iced Gingerbread Bars or my Pear Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake.
So many gingerbreads, so little time!
What is a Boiled Icing
These Iced Gingerbread Bars are topped with an icing known as a boiled icing, and sometimes called a seven-minute frosting. It’s a form of Italian Meringue created by boiling a sugar syrup, then whipping it into stiffly beaten egg whites. It hardens as it dries (though if wrapped and refrigerated the icing may stay soft) and is a common topping for ginger cookies.
The icing should be applied to the bars right away since it will harden fairly quickly. While not traditionally made with vanilla, I added it for a flavor boost.
Why You’ll Love This!
Tasty. Rich, flavorful, soft gingerbread topped with sweet vanilla icing makes a tasty and special bar cookie.
Festive. Nothing says happy holidays like gingerbread!
Nostalgic. Growing up, my kids were always excited about the food their grandma made. Guess that’s true even with adults!
What You’ll Need
- Sugar. This adds sweetness and volume to the gingerbread and frosting.
- Ginger. This adds a spicy flavor to the gingerbread.
- Cinnamon. This adds a spicy flavor to the gingerbread.
- Salt. This enhances flavor and moderates bitterness.
- Lard or shortening. This enriches the gingerbread and aids in rising.
- Mild molasses or sorghum. This provides gingerbread flavor and adds to the sweetness. Mild molasses will have a stronger flavor than sorghum. Do not use a strong molasses.
- Eggs. Yolks enrich the gingerbread and aids in rising. The whites lighten the frosting.
- Water. This helps the baking soda disperse evenly and lightens the batter.
- Baking soda. This helps the gingerbread rise.
- All purpose flour. I haven’t tried with white whole wheat.
- Vanilla. Adds flavor to the frosting.
- You’ll need a mixer for the frosting. I also used mine for the bars, but they can be done by hand.
- You’ll need an instant read thermometer or candy thermometer for the frosting.
Step by Step Directions
Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.
Mix sugar, ginger, cinnamon and salt, then cream in lard. Mix in egg yolks and molasses.
In a separate dish, dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to first mix.
Mix in flour. Dough should be dense but spreadable.
Spread in prepared pan. Bake at 350 F until toothpick inserted off center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
After taking the gingerbread out of the oven, prepare the frosting.
In a free-standing mixer or large metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Do not over beat.
In a small saucepan, mix sugar and water. Heat on medium, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Once mixture comes to a boil be sure not to stir or it will crystalize. Heat to 238 – 242 F (soft ball stage).
When sugar is up to temperature pour into egg whites, beating until mixture is fluffy but still spreadable.
Immediately spread over (partially cooled) gingerbread. I let the frosting cool and harden on the bars at room temperature, but you could serve when it’s cool, even if still soft.
How to Serve
While I’d serve these any time of the year, Iced Gingerbread Bars are a special treat for the holidays. And they are equally at home for either Thanksgiving or Christmas.
To serve, you can leave them right in the baking pan and serve from there or cut them up and set on a platter. They’re perfect alone or in combination with other festive cookies.
My grandmother always stored these in a cookie tin at room temperature. She made twice the amount as my recipe and it never lasted more than a couple days!
Unfrosted, the gingerbread will freeze well. Freezing a meringue-based frosting like this isn’t usually recommended.
Welcome to #ChristmasCookies Week! That time of year when we soften the butter, fire up the oven, and make cookie trays for family, friends, and neighbors. This year more than 20 top-notch bloggers are sharing their very favorite creations for all to make and enjoy. Join us for a week’s worth of Christmas cookie deliciousness.
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Iced Gingerbread Bars
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup lard or shortening
- 1/2 cup mild molasses or sorghum
- 2 egg yolks
- 6 Tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.
- Mix sugar, ginger, cinnamon and salt, then cream in lard. Mix in egg yolks and molasses.
- In a separate dish, dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to first mix.
- Mix in flour. Dough should be dense but spreadable.
- Spread in prepared pan. Bake at 350 F until toothpick inserted off center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
- After taking the gingerbread out of the oven, prepare the frosting.
- In a free-standing mixer or large metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Do not over beat.
- In a small saucepan, mix sugar and water. Heat on medium, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Once mixture comes to a boil be sure not to stir or it will crystalize. Heat to 238 - 242 F (soft ball stage).
- When sugar is up to temperature pour into egg whites, beating until mixture is fluffy but still spreadable. Immediately spread over (partially cooled) gingerbread. I let the frosting cool and harden on the bars at room temperature, but you could serve when it's cool, even if still soft.
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