A Few of My Favorite Things: Ginger Snaps

December 23, 2009

 

Categories:
Cookies, Dough & Desserts, Holidays, Recipes, Winter


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If you ask me, gingersnaps get short shrift. Until recently, they were the one variety I didn’t reach for and I notice this phenomenon all the time at parties. They don’t ooze chocolate or sparkle with powdered sugar. Sometimes they come in the form of little men, but I think this makes them even stranger to eat: “What body part to bite off first?” is not something I like to consider when picking my sweets. Let’s face it—most of us don’t think of them as showstoppers, and so, we pass.

But, like so many nondescript players in extraordinary dramas, gingersnaps are the roots that bind the Christmas table together. They may not seem so glamorous at first glance, but their spice and zing can be a perfect palate cleanser. If you’ve had one too many super-rich bites, but are just not ready to stop eating, these little buggers will carry you through. Truly, they’re the Rudolphs of the evening.

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I like Martha Stewart’s recipe: this is one of the few things I’ve done of hers that really goes off with a bang. For some reason, her work does not resonate in my kitchen. Maybe it’s me, or maybe it’s the fact that her team produces thousands and thousands of recipes a year and can’t possibly have time to properly test each one. Anyhow, I suspect these were part of the early days, when she was a one-woman catering show. They are really classics.

My friend and colleague Mark Wilson—formerly the pastry chef at a very spiffy place called the Hotel Zaza—turned me onto this recipe. I like to gussy it up with some crystallized ginger and then add a textured twinkle with some turbinado sugar spooned on just before they bake. I like mine to spread and crack as they please, but you can also shape them into more perfect circles–if you’re into that sort of thing.

Since making a few batches of these, I have become decidedly hooked on ginger: I reach for little crystallized cubes after dinner. I love the way the cookies snap and zing. I love how thin they are, how they break in half so easily and almost seem to melt between my cheeks and gums. Serve these up with some Nocino or other Italian digestif and you’ll blissfully forget your Christmas bellyache.

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Ginger Snaps

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s “The Craft of Baking” makes about 3 dozen

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t coarse salt
1 c granulated sugar
¾ c (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
2 large eggs
¼ c blackstrap molasses
1 T finely grated fresh ginger
½ c crystallized ginger, cubed and divided
½ c turbinado sugar

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together granulated sugar and butter on a medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. (You can also use a pair of strong hands or a hand held mixer for this.)

Beat in eggs, molasses, and ginger until combined. With the mixer at low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. When dough has come together, blend in 1/4 c crystalized ginger.

Form dough into ¾ inch balls. Press each cookie down flat then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place a small piece of crystallized ginger in the center of each cookie.

Bake about 9-12 minutes, rotating sheet pan once.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

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