Thursday, May 21, 2009

How to Put Snap Into Gingersnap Cookies

gingersnaps leaning cookie

Ginger bread men are perfect for Christmas time, but gingersnaps are perfect any time.

Our love for gingersnaps runs deep: they evolved from the traditional German Christmas ginger bread cookie, Lebkuchen, which were likely invented by Medieval German monks as early as the thirteenth century.

While ginger bread men get to play dress up every winter, gingersnaps remain plain Janes year-round. Yet it's their unassuming nature that makes them so appealing. Gingersnaps are small, round, spicy cookies made from ginger and molasses. Unlike ginger bread cookies, gingersnaps are crisper and firmer, making them ideal for dunking.

Like most people, I always thought the "snap" referred to the cookie's characteristic crunch; however, according to John Mariani of The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, "snap" probably derives from the German or Middle Dutch, snappen, which means "to seize quickly." In relation to cookies, it's an informal way of saying they're easy or "a snap to make."


Still, the best gingersnaps are snappy on many levels. So how exactly do you put the "snap" in a gingersnap? I have tried about half a dozen different gingersnap cookie recipes, and the snappiest ones are from Martha. Here's what's so good about her gingersnap cookies recipe: She uses real ginger, which infuses the cookies with a clean, fresh zinginess, ground cloves, which offer enticing aroma and spiciness, and ground black pepper, which adds a touch of heat. I baked the cookies a little longer for added crispness and rolled them in Turbinado sugar for extra crunch.

Don't wait a long seven months for Christmas cookie season to get your ginger cookie fix. Gingersnaps are low-maintenance -- no cut outs, no frosting, no raisin buttons, just old-fashioned gingery goodness.

Gingersnaps (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
(Martha says the recipe makes about 60 cookies, but mine made about 30.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 1/2 tablespoon finely grated, peeled ginger (one 3-inch piece) (I used 2 tablespoons)
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used Turnibado sugar)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and salt; set aside.

Martha uses a stand mixer, but I used a hand mixer for this part: In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, molasses, and ginger on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg until smooth and combined. Add flour mixture, and beat on low until just combined. Transfer dough to a bowl and wrap in plastic; refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in the center and lower third. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place granulated sugar in a shallow bowl; roll balls in sugar until completely coated, and place about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets (as cookies spread).

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are deep golden all over and centers are firm, 15-18 minutes (I baked mine for about 20 minutes so they would be crisper). Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. Note: Tin containers will keep the cookies crisper.

You might also like:

Comforting Banana, Oatmeal, and Raisin Cookies

Mango Bread

Tootsie Roll Fudge (made with ginger snaps)

Here's more gingery goodness:
Jamie's Ultimate Gingerbread at Cherrapeno
Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies at No Special Effects
Brown Butter Gingersnaps at Nook and Pantry

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