Friday, November 18, 2011

gingersnaps

gingersnaps

And then, just like that, I decided not to work anymore. It’s weird, I finished my manuscript and I was raring to go — reshoots! edits! let’s talk design! — for about two days and then, almost out of curiosity, I closed the elaborate spreadsheet that owns me tracks all the recipes, photos, intros and progress in the manuscript, just to see if it could close, after being open for more than a year, and it did. And then, I didn’t reopen it. I pulled on my boots and wandered all over the city, eating roasted chestnuts from a street cart, buying glitter nail polish, delighting in the carpet of golden leaves underfoot and being fantastically schedule-free. So far today, I drank a latte — sitting down I might add, and not while rushing to the grocery store because I ran out of flour again — and I’m thinking about making some applesauce. Or trying again to convince my husband that we should paint the living room. Or maybe I’ll take a nap when the kid does? Clearly, I have some tough decision making ahead.

the lineup
weighing it out

The good news is that being here doesn’t feel remotely like work; I am simply delighted to be back. And so, let’s talk about the gingersnaps that I also made just for the heck of it, just because I could, earlier this week. They’re thin and intensely spiced and quite snappy — buttery crisp at the perimeter, tentatively approaching tender and chewy towards the center, but not committing to it. I know that ginger junkies tend to like gingersnaps that are closer to ginger bombs, with grated fresh ginger and/or nuggets of candied ginger, but these (unless you make a couple tweaks, which I will attempt to suggest) are not that kind of snap. These are the kinds your grandmother might have made, as evidenced by the healthy helping of dark, funky and impossibly thick molasses.

tower of warm spices

ripples of molasses
so thick and dark

And it was from these molasses that I had an a-ha moment. Way back in 2006, when this site was a newborn (one baby, job, apartment and two cameras ago), the fourth post, ever, contained three recipes for what I considered ideal large cookies for ice cream sandwiches. [By the way, I brought them to a friend’s birthday party that night and they were a disaster -- not the cookies themselves but the logistics of eating a massive ice cream sandwich before it melts everywhere on a hot summer night on a Brooklyn rooftop. We all went with ice cream smudges on our arms. Ah, summer.] Anyway, in the lineup was a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for molasses spice cookies. I wanted to see how the gingersnaps I’d made would compare to them and was shocked to find the two recipes to be nearly exactly the same, ingredient for ingredient. I then turned to Google to find more gingersnap recipes and again, discovered that a whole lot of gingersnap recipes agree with one another.

gingersnap batter, kind of soft
all rolled and super sticky

In a different week, I might have fretted over this. I would feel the need to tweak them, to offer you an improvement upon the gingersnap status quo. Not this week, though. This week, it’s clear to me that if many people agree on what Gingersnap Greatness should taste like, I should feel no need to argue. I have a playground date to attend to, after all, and then maybe a nap.

thought they needed a little fairy dust

You know what these go great with? Baked Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings. Swear it.

One year ago: Creamed Onions with Bacon Chives and Sweet Corn Spoonbread
Two years ago: Creamed Spinach and Gingerbread Apple Upside Down Cake
Three years ago: Olive Oil Muffins, Chicken Pot Pie, Chocolate Toffee Cookies and Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
Four years ago: Creamy White Polenta with Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts in Browned Butter and Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie
Five years ago: Grilled Cheese and Cream of Tomato Soup, Cranberry Sauce, Three Ways, No Knead Bread and Tomato and Sausage Risotto (so perfect for the current cold snap!)

Gingersnaps
Barely adapted from Sweet Melissa Patisserie, Cook’s Illustrated and a few other places

Yield: About 4 dozen

2 1/4 cups (281 grams) 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 (8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (96 grams) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup (79 ml) unsulphured molasses

Optional, for even more of a ginger kick: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger (with the wet ingredients) or 1 to 2 tablespoons finely minced candied ginger (with the dry ingredients).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars together until fluffy, about three minutes on medium. Add egg and molasses and beat until combined. Add dry ingredient and beat at low speed until just combined. Thoroughly scrape down bowl, ensuring ingredients are evenly mixed.

Transfer your cookie dough to plastic wrap — mine was quite soft and I felt like I was spreading frosting over plastic. I used a plate to support it. Chill in fridge for at least two hours, until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Roll dough into 1-inch balls and spread at least two inches apart on baking sheets that have either been greased or lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, which is a long range. In the 10 to 12 range, the cookies will be softer. In the 13 to 15 range, a bit snappier. In both cases, you’ll want to leave them on their baking sheets for long enough that they’re firm enough to be transferred to a cooling rack with a spatula, anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. Cool cookies completely before packing up.

Do ahead: In an airtight container at room temperature, the cookies will soften a bit each day. Cookies keep for one week at room temperature or one month in the freezer. For even fresher cookies, you can keep balls of the unbaked dough in the freezer for up to two weeks and bake them as you need them, say, on Thanksgiving morning?


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