I have very fond childhood memories of gingersnaps that came in tall cylindrical tins that were crisp and sweet and most of all, gingery. It must be a generational thing, because most folks in the forties and older seem to recall this cookie, one of just a few commercial cookies at the time. I don’t even remember the manufacturer or the name of the cookie, just the actual cookie. They were a favorite of my mom and dad, and I recall that they weren’t an everyday treat. So with the recent bounty of ginger in the house, I figured I should attempt to replicate the gingersnaps of my childhood. It wasn’t that easy to find a good sounding recipe, but leafing through a cookbook entitled “The Sweet Life, Desserts from Chanterelle” by Kate Zuckerman, amongst many elegant sounding restaurant quality desserts, she had a recipe for a basic gingersnap cookie. I immediately checked to see if we had all of the ingredients and went about the happy task of baking up a batch. To my and Mrs. MM’s disappointment, the first attempt came out a bit chewy and while very flavorful, they lacked the essential snap. The Teen, on the other hand, prefers softer and chewier cookies, so she thought they were the cat’s meow.
I tried to figure out what needed to be altered to make sure they were crisper the second time around. Did I put too much butter? Were the ingredients at the right temperature? Was the flour measured properly? Was it just one of those 100% humidity, stormy, rainy days where anything would turn out soggy? Were the cookies too large, or did we underbake them? Hmmmm…. A week or so later, and needing to bring baked goods as a present for friends, I decided to give the recipe another try. Tempting fate, I scaled the recipe up three times, wanting to make at least 120 cookies total. Thankfully, they came out EXACTLY the way Mrs. MM and I like them. Crisp all over, but then you bite into them, a little softer on the inside. Don’t know how long they will remain crisp in our damp weather, but for a day after cooking them, they were delicious and crisp. The recipe credit still has to go to Ms. Zuckerman, I just fiddled with it a bit and added an ingredient that takes it one notch higher…
This recipe should make roughly 40 cookies, depending on low large or small you make them. Cream 17 tablespoons (1 cup and 1 tablespoon) of butter at room temperature (65F) in a mixer for about 1 minute, then add 1 and 1/4 cups of brown sugar (lighter not dark muscovado) and cream this further for 6-7 minutes until well incorporated and the butter is lighter. Add two large eggs at room temperature, one at a time, and mix well. I used a kitchen aid mixer with paddle attachment, you may need to adjust mixing times with a less powerful mixer. In a separate bowl add 2 and 1/4 cups flour (I used unbleached all-purpose flour; bleached should be okay as well), 2 teaspoons baking soda, a large pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons powdered ginger from a FRESH bottle, 1 teaspoon of ground cloves (from a FRESH bottle), 2 teaspoons of ground cinammon, and about 1-1.5 tablespoons of shaved crystallized ginger. I just used a hard cheese grater to shave the crystallized ginger. If you make your own crystallized ginger, it may not be as dry as the one in the photo below, so just mince it finely and add it to the flour mixture and whisk everything together until well incorporated.
When the butter, sugar and egg mixture is ready, all the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Add 1/4 cup of unsulphured molasses and keep mixing until just incorporated. Take the bowl out of the mixer and use a rubber spatula to ensure that everything is well incorporated, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate this for 2.5-3.0 hours. If you live in a cooler climate that Manila in the dead of summer/rainy season, then chilling for 1.5-2.0 hours should suffice.
Pre-heat the oven to 350F, then line your baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats, take the batter out of the fridge, and add a rough tablespoon to your palm and roll it into a ball, then roll it in a plate filled with white sugar (better if you can find crystal or large grain sugar, from bake shops) and place it on the pan, patting it down a little. This part is one of the keys to a good final product. Don’t be tempted to make the cookies TOO BIG. And don’t flatten the ball too much, they will naturally spread out. Stick this in the oven for roughly 13-15 minutes, turning the pan around to cook them all evenly. Don’t undercook them, and don’t burn them either. It may take a pan or two or three for you to gauge the right amount of time in your oven and given your choice of cookie size.
Let the cookies stay on the pans when you remove them from the oven, then after a few minutes transfer them to cooling racks. I just went over to the kitchen to taste test a cookie the day after baking them, and they were perfect. Actually crisper and definitely had that much needed snap. Perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee, or if like me, a tall glass of Diet Coke. :)