Until 2-3 years ago, I thought of ginger exclusively as a savory spice. Maybe it comes from my Asian background, but I almost definitively associated ginger with soups and stir-fry. Ginger in sweet treats always tasted out-of-place to me. Then a few years ago, I decided to have an open mind about ginger cookies and I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the spicy and fresh fragrance of ginger paired with the sweet caramelized flavor of molasses. In ginger cookies, I like the combination of the molasses and brown sugar as the source of sweetness, giving the cookies a deep and rich flavor.
I picked up this recipe from Bon Appetit last year and it was big hit so I added it to my 2012 holiday baking line-up. I drop the dough into gold decorating sugar rather than rolling the dough in the sugar to cut the sweetness, but the tops of the cookies still get the festive, gold, sparkly effect. As with most of my baking, I add more vanilla than called for in the original recipe. The black pepper in this is a great addition that adds depth and my dear husbanders can appreciate that the cinnamon in this recipe is very subtle. These cookies have a nice crispy outside and a chewy texture. Personally, these cookies are my favorite from this year’s holiday cookies. I wish I could find a good substitute for the vegetable shortening, but since I’ve had such success with the recipe as written, I haven’t deviated much from the recipe. If you find a good (and healthier) substitute, please let me know!
CHEWY TRIPLE GINGER MOLASSES COOKIES (adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine 2011)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons dried, ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup, packed, dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar because that’s all I had in the house)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I used Crisco)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup robust molasses
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger (I use a microplane grater for this)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
approx. ¾ cup gold sugar (I used Betty Crocker’s cupcake decorating gold sugar)
Pre-heat to 350F (approx. 180C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mats. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Beat brown sugar, shortening, and butter in a large bowl, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. I use a stand mixer on medium-high for this, but you can also use a hand-mixer.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the egg, molasses, fresh ginger, and vanilla. Beat just until the ingredients are blended. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients quickly and beat until just blended. With a rubber spatula, mix in the crystallized ginger. The cookie dough is very sticky and soft and almost feels too sticky to be workable.
In a small bowl, add the gold sugar. Scoop tablespoonfuls of the dough and place the dough gently into the gold sugar, then scoop up the dough and place the dough onto the baking sheet with the sugared side facing up. Space the cookies about 1 ½ inches (3 cm) apart.
Bake cookies, until edges are firm and centers appears slightly cracked, about 10–12 minutes. Cool the cookies on wire wracks and repeat with the remaining dough.