I found myself in need of an easy cookie to bake and take to a church function a few days ago, one that used what I had available easily in my fridge and pantry. I didn’t want another batch of chocolate chip cookies – I wasn’t feeling them, and my chocolate chip rations are getting low around here. I also wanted something more seasonably appropriate, as well as something I haven’t had in a while.
And lo, there it was: the gingersnap.
I didn’t like gingersnaps as a kid, and I blame this error on a number of larger systemic errors. Firstly, my experience with gingersnaps was mainly with cheapo store-bought varieties with almost no flavor beyond stale spicing and sugar. Bleck. Secondly, I’m a chocolate fiend, and gingersnaps can look a lot like chocolate cookies, so imagine my disappointment (to put it lightly) when, expecting a chocolate delight, and instead getting said stale, boring, powdery gingersnap. Double bleck. This repeated experience colored my view of the gingersnap for years, up until only a few years back: I found a recipe for a chewy ginger cookie that changed my friggin’ life. (Worry not – a tweaked version of that recipe will appear in the blog later this season!) It was full of ginger flavor, from three ginger sources – ground, grated, and candied – doused in deep, dark molasses, and spiced beautifully with a touch of black pepper. After loving this chewy ginger cookie, I figured I’d give gingersnaps another go, and my instincts were correct.
This gingersnap is nothing like the watered-down versions you might find even in the best store-bought varieties of cookies. It’s dark, a bit spicy, and has a satisfying crunch and chew, all at once. The dough comes together quickly and easily, and freezes beautifully (as most cookie doughs are wont to do). The best part? It’s not sickly sweet, thanks to the complexity and mild-sweetening power of molasses. I like to top mine with a drizzle of icing for decoration and contrast with said molasses complexity. Ohhhhh yes.
Fair warning: this dough needs a stint in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before baking. This cooling, like other slice-and-bake (or shape and bake) doughs, allows the butter to harden enough for the cookies to keep their shape during baking – otherwise, you’ll end up with a melty mega-cookie, which might not sound bad until you’re trying to clean it off your oven floor and racks. No thanks. But the cooling makes it a nice dough to prep either in the morning and bake in the afternoon or evening, or prep the night before and bake in the morning before an event. Or just prep and watch TV until it’s time to take it out of the fridge and bake it. Your call.
Ready to bake? Snap snap snap!
This dough makes about 4 dozen cookies or more, depending on how big or small your rolls and slicing are. Use less baking time for smaller gingersnaps, and a bit more for larger or thicker cookies. I provide an optional icing recipe at the bottom, should you be so inclined to decorate your cookies after cooling.
You will need:
- 1 c (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 c unsulphured molasses (the darker, the better!)
- 1/2 c white sugar
- 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
- 3 1/4 c all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1/8-1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugars, and molasses until smooth and fully incorporated.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, making sure to incorporate the dry into the wet fully between additions.
- Shape dough into 2 logs about 2 inches in diameter. (If you want bigger or smaller cookies, resize accordingly. Your baking times may vary, depending on how big or small you make them.) Wrap dough in sheets of parchment paper (you’ll use this later to line your baking pans), and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Work with one log at a time and keep the other in the refrigerator until slicing. Unwrap your dough log, line a cookie sheet with the parchment paper, and place the dough log on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or dough cutter, slice the dough into discs as thinly as you can (ideally about 1/8 inch – the thicker your cookie, the less “snappy” it’ll be), turning the log as you go to maintain a round shape. You may find you’ll need to reshape the cookies as they’re sliced and sides get flattened – this is okay! Place cookies on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough log.
- Bake cookies at 350 degrees F until the edges are crisp (these are so dark you won’t be able to tell if they’re “browning”), about 7-8 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Cool pans on a cooling rack for a few minutes, then transfer cookies directly to the cooling racks to cool completely, about 10-15 minutes. Frost or ice if you desire, or eat them as is! Store in an airtight container for up to a few days.
This stuff hardens beautifully on a cookie. Feel free to omit the corn syrup, but the icing may not harden as well without it. (And remember, kids, the corn syrup you buy in the baking section is not the same as high-fructose corn syrup, so don’t be afraid of it!)
You will need:
- 1 c powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-4 tbsp milk or water
- 1 tsp light corn syrup
- Whisk powdered sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and 2 tbsp of the milk together in a small bowl to form a smooth, paste, making sure to whisk out any sugar lumps. Add more milk as necessary to get a loose consistency (enough to drizzle easily with a fork or spoon).
- Either drizzle onto cookies with a fork or spoon, or spread with a butter knife, leaving room on the edges for the icing to spread. Allow to set completely in a cool, dry area before storing, about 30 minutes.