Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ginger Snaps

My friend and former roommate Ayelet is an avid baker and makes many delicious desserts, but my favorite by far are her ginger snaps. She baked them often when we lived together, and the whole suite would fill with the warm frangrance of ginger. I could barely wait for them to cool.

I often use Ayelet's recipes now, but the ginger snaps have never come out quite right. Usually, the dough is too crumbly and the cookies are dry. The results were somewhat better when I monitored the temperature of the eggs and the shortening (which Ayelet never did), but they were still inferior to hers. Finally, I decided to switch to a new recipe. The one I use now comes from Lisa Yockelson of the Boston Globe (March 1, 2006). The flavors are the same, but I find the dough more workable. (Yockelson recommends preparing the dough five hours in advance to allow it time to firm up in the refrigirator, but I have not had trouble rolling the cookies while the dough is soft.) The cookies always come out well, and they are a big hit at Thanksgiving dinner.

Here is the recipe, slightly edited:
3 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter or margarine, softened*
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons molasses (Yockelson recommends light molasses. I use dark.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, beating all the while.

Add the whole egg and egg yolk. Beat only until incorporated. Blend in the molasses and vanilla.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, beating just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

If the dough is too soft to roll, place it in a covered dish and refrigirate several hours or up to 2 days.

Sugar Coating
1/2 cup granulated sugar**
dash ginger

In a wide bowl, combine the sugar and ginger.

Take heaping tablespoons of dough into your palms and roll them into balls, then in the sugar mixture until lightly coated. Set them on the baking sheets, arranging them 3 inches apart.

Bake 8-10 minutes for soft cookies, or 12-13 minutes for crisp cookies. The cookies will rise slightly, then settle. The tops will be cracked. Let them stand on the sheets for 2 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

*If you use salted butter or margarine, omit the 1/2 teaspoon salt. (I used Earth Balance last time, and it was fine.)

** The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but that was much more than necessary.

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