If you’ve ever tried to bake gingerbread, you may have experienced the frustrating phenomenon of your beautiful, carefully crafted treats cracking or crumbling in the oven. While this can be frustrating, it’s actually a relatively common issue with gingerbread – and fortunately, it’s also one that’s relatively easy to prevent.
So, why does gingerbread dough crack? Well, the answer isn’t as simple as x caused y and then z happened.
There are a few key reasons why gingerbread can crack or crumble when baked. Gingerbread dough cracks because of:
- The inaccurate ratio of Ingredients
- The manner in which the dough is handled during rolling
- Temperature variations in your oven
Some of these problems are related to the recipe itself, while others are more closely tied to the baking process. A misstep in any one of the above, can and will cause your gingerbread dough to crack.
Don’t despair, though, because, in this post, we’ll discuss the reasons why gingerbread can crack when baked, and what you can do to prevent it from happening.
One of the main culprits behind gingerbread cracking is overmixing the dough. Gingerbread dough should be mixed only until it comes together and forms a cohesive mass; if you continue to mix the dough past this point, you can create too much gluten, which can lead to cracks or crumbling. Make sure you mix the dough very briefly – just until it forms a ball – and then stop.
Incorrect Ratio of Ingredients
Another reason why gingerbread cookies may crack or crumble is that there is an incorrect ratio of ingredients. Ingredients like flour, sugar, and spices should all be accurately proportioned to ensure the right texture and consistency of the dough.
If you don’t use enough flour, for example, the dough may be too sticky, making it more likely to crack or crumble in the oven. Make sure to follow your gingerbread recipe closely and measure all ingredients accurately to avoid this problem.
Dough Rolling Process
The way you handle the dough during the rolling-out process can also contribute to cracking. In order to avoid creating stress points in the dough that could lead to cracking, you should roll out the dough evenly and gently.
Don’t roll it too thin or too thick, and be sure to use even pressure across the entire surface. Also, make sure you do not use too much flour when rolling out the dough since this can cause it to dry out and crack.
Temperature Fluctuations in the Oven
Finally, the baking process itself can contribute to cracking. Gingerbread is a relatively dense dough, and it requires a longer baking time than many other types of cookies. If you are baking on a rack, make sure to turn the baking sheet halfway through the baking process to prevent hot spots that could lead to uneven cooking or cracks.
If you don’t trust your oven temperature, and you want to make sure it’s set at the right temperature you can try using an oven thermometer. This will let you know the real temperature in the oven, rather than relying on the finicky oven thermometer. If you’re in the market for an oven thermometer, or you’re thinking of possibly adding it to your kitchen tool set, read my post The Best Bread and Oven Thermometer You Should Use and Why for my top pick.
How to Prevent Cracking
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent gingerbread from cracking when baked.
Here are some tips that should help:
Follow the Recipe Closely
One of the most important things you can do to prevent cracking is to make sure you follow your gingerbread recipe as closely as possible, if not exactly. This means measuring all of your ingredients accurately, mixing the dough only until it forms a cohesive ball, and handling the dough gently when rolling it out.
Use the Right Amount of Flour
Using the right amount of flour is also incredibly important when it comes to preventing gingerbread from cracking. Pay close attention to the recipe and make sure you measure your flour and other dry ingredients carefully. If you’re not sure how much flour to use, check the package instructions or consult an online resource like a cooking website.
Overmixing is another thing to avoid when it comes to gingerbread. Mix the dough only until it forms a cohesive ball, then stop. Avoid the temptation to keep mixing, even if you see some lumps or dry patches in the dough. In reality, these imperfections will smooth out as the dough is rolled out, so try not to worry about them.
Take Care in Rolling out the Dough
When it comes to rolling out the dough, be sure to use even pressure across the entire surface. Roll gently and evenly, making sure not to press too hard or too thin in any particular spots. And, as previously mentioned, avoid dusting the dough with too much flour.
Keep An Eye on Oven Temperatures
Finally, it’s essential to monitor oven temperatures closely when baking gingerbread. Make sure to wait for your oven to reach the correct temperature before you start baking and keep an eye on the cookies through the window as they bake. If you notice that the oven temperature is fluctuating, you might want to invest in an oven thermometer to help you keep temperatures consistent.
Gingerbread is a delicious and beautiful holiday treat, but the cracking can seem like an unnecessary headache.
By taking care to follow the recipe closely, measuring ingredients accurately, and rolling out the dough with even pressure, you can help prevent cracking and create beautiful, well-shaped gingerbread cookies.
Finally, don’t forget to serve them with a tall glass of milk or a warm cup of tea – after all, that’s what the holidays are all about!