Chez Panisse Gingersnaps

My awesome Uncle Wayne loves gingersnaps. He helps out on my house often and I try to keep the builders sweetened up. Consequently, I’ve made a lot of gingersnaps with a lot of recipes. I’ll have to ask Wayne which are his favorites, but it became clear to me today that these win in my book. I don’t expect to be looking for a new recipe again soon.

Gingersnaps can be tricky cookies. The amount of flour varies widely between recipes and they can end up too flat or too dry with the incorrect amounts. The butter needs to be whipped a lot. The spices must be strong, but not overwhelming. The difference in cooking for another 2 minutes or less will give you a totally different cookie. A far cry from, say… oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. You can make those a new way each time and they’ll always be pretty wonderful. Gingersnaps may not be as forgiving, but I do believe they satisfy on a higher level.

Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. It’s a lot of steps, but really comes together easily. I altered the recipe very, very little, to include whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose and a bit of salt in the topping. When David Lebovitz and Alice Waters are speaking, it’s absurd to try to trump what they say.

Oh, one last note. I do believe that since I started weighing my flour, the results have been far better. Because I grind whole wheat fresh from the grain, the texture is very light compared to flour that’s been stuffed in bags and sat on a shelf for a while to settle. It took two and a half cups of my flour to equal 280 grams as called for in the recipe. I appreciate the exactness of such directions in baking (and loathe it in cooking), so I’ll be on the lookout for other recipes that include it to compare. What a difference a half a cup would make! If you have a scale, by all means, weigh along.

Chez Panisse Gingersnaps
Adapted from David Lebovitz

2 cups (280 g) whole wheat flour
1½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground black pepper
11 Tbs (150 g) butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup (80 g) molasses
1 large egg, at room temperature
For topping:
6 tsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt

Sift together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter just until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat until smooth, stopping the mixer to scrape down any butter clinging to the sides of the bowl. Stir in the vanilla, molasses and egg. Beat for another minute. Mix in the dry ingredients gradually until the dough is smooth.

Divide the dough in two equal portions and roll each on a lightly-floured surface until each is about 2-inches around. Wrap each in plastic wrap then roll them lightly on the counter to smooth them out. Freeze the cookie logs until firm. To bake, preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Slice cookie dough into 1/4-inch rounds with a sharp knife. Dip one side and press firmly in a bowl of 1 part salt and 3 parts sugar, and place sugar-side up on baking sheet, evenly-spaced apart. Leave a couple of inches between cookies since they’ll spread while baking.

Bake for 10-14 minutes, until deep-golden brown. 10 minutes gave me cookies that were slightly under-done, 14 minutes and they were crispy. The cookies will puff up a bit while baking, then settle down when they’re done. Let the cookies cool two minutes, then remove them with a spatula and transfer them to a cooling rack.


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