It came out of nowhere, an overwhelming urge to make a batch of ginger snap cookies. I hopped on my computer and poured through recipe after recipe, chewy or crisp, candied ginger or ground, additions like pumpkin and whoopie pie variations leaped off the screen calling at my taste buds. The variations were endless and I was approaching abandonment of the whole idea. I have this defense mechanism that kicks in when I am faced with too many options, I call it a day on scratch the idea. I quickly closed out of the windows and settled on two recipes. As with most recipes I try to contribute something unique or at least mix and match a few different versions to create something a little less run-of-the mill.
Molasses spice cookies are a staple of the holiday season but can really be enjoyed any time of the year I suppose. I think these cookies have their time and certainly a nostalgia about them around the holidays. I’m not talking about the fourth of July holiday either, I’m talking Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s right, I have caved to the pre-season holiday cheer. I partially blame it on my previous job in retail where every season came two months early. Those retail stores are sneaky, they pump the air conditioning and crank up the Christmas music and suddenly you can’t help but feel the need to purchase an outfit for the holiday party you haven’t even been invited to yet.
Call me what you will but today I think the trickery of retail worked. I spent part of my day shopping with my mother trying to ignore the jingle bell music, the snow flakes and the bright red shiny over-sized christmas ornaments. While I didn’t make any holiday purchases, once home I was hit with the desire to bake ginger snaps, not so random I am beginning to think.
My favorite memory tied to ginger snaps comes from the Mystic Seaport. Any time of the year is a great time to visit the seaport but the wintertime has always been my favorite. The little historic town just overflows with warm holiday greetings and the horse drawn carriages just beg for the snow to start falling. The Buckingham Hall house boasts its cooking hearth with freshly baked ginger snaps and the role players dance from place to place with garlands and lanterns. If you’re fortunate enough to have made it to a Lantern Light Tour then you know what I’m talking about.
While it’s not quite that time of year, we’ve had our first snow fall and I think it’s as good a time as any to start perfecting my ginger snap recipe. For the first time in quite some time I chose to weigh my ingredients rather than measure them in cups. It brought back memories of food science classes in college and there is something so satisfying about getting the grams just right. Perhaps that’s my desire for perfection shining through. Either way I had fun with this recipe, I was a bit hesitant about the two hour chill time but I was able to play domestic goddess (i.e cleaning, laundry) while the dough prepared itself for baking.
Adapted from Fine Cooking and Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.
Makes about 3 dozen
2 1/4 cups (281 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2 to 3 grams) table salt
3 teaspoons (6 grams) ground ginger
1 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) turbinado sugar
1/2 cup (96 grams) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup (79 ml) unsulphured molasses
Zest of 1 orange, about 1 TBSP
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices with a whisk. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars with a stand mixer or hand mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg, molasses, and orange zest and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until well incorporated. Spoon batter onto plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours until firm.
Preheat oven to 350F and roll dough into one inch (or one and a half inch) balls. Roll the dough balls in turbinado sugar if desired. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet about two inches apart from one another. Bake for 10-15 minutes, closer to 10 minutes for chewy and closer to 15 minutes for crispy cookies. Let cool about 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling racks. Let cool completely on racks before storing.