today’s taste: crunchy gingersnaps
Gingersnaps belonged an exclusive cookie category of my childhood; along with Oreos and Nilla Wafers, they were the only storebought cookies allowed shelf space. Despite a flavor profile synonymous with Christmas trees and Mannheim Steamroller, we kept – and consumed – the cookies year-round. They were crunchy, savory, and oh-so-convenient for both snacking and baking, which may justify the many years it took to consider making them from scratch. Once the idea bubbled to the surface of my brain, though, I had to try. If the cookie had that level of flavor and crunch coming out of a box, what kind of gingery, snappy taste I could I create coming out of the oven?!
I knew that if I wanted to make recreating an old favorite worth the effort, these gingersnaps would have to boast a lot of flavor. In addition to the whopping two tablespoons of ground ginger (two batches of these did some damage to my spice drawer), I decided to add fresh, grated ginger. The bright and spicy punch of the two gingers made the boxed cookies seem flavorless in comparison. To round out the flavor, I also added a healthy dose of cinnamon, as well as cloves, black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. The result was a bold and just-sweet-enough cookie that made my kitchen smell like the inside of a cinnamon stick. Baking the cookies low and slow encouraged the flavors to intensify further while allowing them to dry out slightly and develop the crunch I craved. (If you prefer your gingersnaps softer, though, simply reduce the cooking time by 5-8 minutes.)
Finally, I took the revinvention one extravagant step further by topping the cookies with a lemon glaze. The tangy sweetness complemented the spicy cookies, and the delicate white drizzle elevated them from a rustic snack to a dessert worthy of a platter at a dinner party. Is there anything better than a beautiful and delicious cookie? Yes! A beautiful, delicious cookie that stores well!
Unfrosted, these cookies will keep for approximately two weeks. Due to their longevity, they became part of a well-intentioned but poorly executed plan to surprise my sister, Madison. A junior in college, Madison spent the fall studying in London. While a college semester abroad should only be described in the most euphoric of adjectives (those memories grow rosier every year since graduation), I had heard that Thanksgiving away from home could be melancholy. (You will soon realize why a recipe I had developed before Thanksgiving is just reaching the blog now…) So, I devised a plan to send my sister a box full of cozy and warm holiday spirit: a Christmas-themed mug, pre-portioned brownie-in-a-mug ingredients, a pumpkin candle, hot chocolate mix, a family photo, and a bag of these cookies. After packing the goodies into a festive box from Homegoods, I trotted into the nearest FedEx and asked how much it would cost to send the box to London by Thanksgiving. To my chagrin, the estimate was three figures, double the value of the box contents, and certainly not happening. (I know – I am an idiot.) UPS and the Post Office told me the same, and thus ended my quixotic journey to send Maddie the holidays in a box.
As fate would have it, though, I traveled to Europe for work just a few weeks later and was able to hand-deliver to her a belated Thanksgiving and fresh batch then; and now, without risk of ruining the surprise, I can electronically deliver the recipe (and some mouth-watering photos) to you!
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch cayenne
- 1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 large egg plus 1 yolk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Pinch cinnamon
- Pinch cloves
- Pinch nutmeg
- Pinch ground ginger
- Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat until melted. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook, swirling pan frequently, until foaming subsides and butter is just beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Transfer butter to large bowl and whisk in ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and cayenne. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, molasses, and fresh ginger to butter mixture and whisk to combine. Add egg and yolk and whisk to combine. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
- Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
- Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place granulated sugar in shallow bowl. Divide dough into heaping teaspoon portions; roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll balls in sugar to coat. Evenly space dough balls on prepared baking sheets, 16 dough balls per sheet. Press gently on the balls to flatten slightly.
- Place sheet on upper rack and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, transfer partially baked top sheet to lower, rack, rotating 180 degrees. Continue to bake until cookies on lower tray just begin to darken around edges, 10 to 12 minutes longer. Remove cookies from oven and transfer parchment paper and cookies to wire rack.
- Whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle over cookies and allow to set.
- Unglazed cookies may be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.