A Times Colonist reader, Don, asked if I had a good recipe for thin ginger snaps — a very crispy cookie that does actually snap when you break it.
I knew I would find one or more in my vast cookbook collection and did. I also found recipes for a thicker style of ginger cookie sometimes also called a ginger snap that, when baked, has a crinkled top.
Today, I thought I would explain the difference between these two styles of ginger-rich cookies and provide recipes for both.
The style of ginger snap Don is referring to is one he remembers from his childhood and could be made at home or be bought at the store, which is what his family did. Don said his father got him hooked on having this type of cookie topped with butter and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese.
I found several recipes for this type of cookie, and although they varied in how they were made, they did share key features. The dough for both was quite dense and not overly leavened with baking soda. It was chilled and rested, then rolled out quite thinly, cut into cookies and baked.
My recipe for ginger snaps was fashioned from one I found in The Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook, first published in 1966. In the introduction to that book’s recipe, it said it was a Newfoundland cookie that had a real old-fashioned snap to it, which it does.
My second recipe, adapted from one I published in one of my cookbooks many years ago, is for a thicker type of ginger cookie that has that crinkled top. The dough does have a touch more baking soda and an egg in it, and is rolled into balls.
In a hot oven, those balls sink and spread out, creating a cookie that is crispy on the outside with a crinkled top, and a touch of tenderness in the centre, depending on how long you bake them.
Because both doughs are quite dense, I used a stand mixer to make both cookies, making it easy to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Also, because both cookies are rich with ginger and other spices, sugar and molasses, they keep well and seem to develop an even finer flavour if allowed to sit a few days.
These thin, crispy, heavenly spiced cookies have a real “snap” to them.
Preparation time: 45 minutes, plus cooling and resting time
Baking time: 15 minutes per sheet of cookies
Makes: About 40 cookies, depending on size of cutter
1/2 cup cooking molasses
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour (see Note)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
Put molasses, shortening and water in a small pot and set over medium, medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring to combine the melted shortening with the other ingredients. Remove from heat, cool mixture to temperature and then pour into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Place flour, sugar, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a second bowl and whisk well to combine.
Add flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix well to create dense dough. Tear a large sheet of plastic wrap. Transfer dough to the centre of the plastic wrap and flatten into a 1/2-inch-thick disc. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and rest and chill in the refrigerator one hour.
To bake cookies, preheat oven to 375 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (my sheets were 18-by-13 inches). Unwrap dough and cut in half.
Set a half-piece of dough on a very lightly floured work surface. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Loosen dough from the work surface if it sticks during this process.
Cut dough into rounds with a cookie cutter (mine was 2 1/2 inches in diameter). Set rounds of dough on one of the baking sheets, spacing them about one inch apart. Gather up the scraps of dough, and roll and cut into cookies as well. Bake cookies in the middle of the oven 15 minutes.
Roll out the other piece of dough, cut into rounds and bake the cookies as you did the first batch.
Let cookies completely cool on a baking rack an hour or two. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep at least two weeks.
Note: If the flour you have at home has been sitting around awhile, it will likely have compacted. Give it a good stir or whisk before measuring the amount needed for this recipe. Doing so will aerate the flour and make it more like it was when first purchased.
Eric’s options: You can cut these cookies into any shape.
Crinkled Ginger Cookies
Crinkled on top, crisp on the outside, with a hint of tenderness in the centre, these addictive ginger-spiced cookies go great with a hot cup of tea.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 15 to 18 minutes, per sheet of cookies
Makes: about 30 cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (see Note under Ginger Snaps recipe)
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp white vinegar
1/4 cup cooking molasses
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (my sheets were 18-by-13 inches).
Place flour, baking soda, ginger, cloves and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Place butter and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until well combined, about three minutes. Beat in the egg, vinegar and molasses. Add the flour mixture and beat until dense dough forms.
Roll dough into tightly formed, one-inch balls and place on one of the baking sheets, spacing each one about two inches apart (the cookies will spread out as they bake).
Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, in the middle of the oven 15 minutes (for cookies that are more tender in the centre) to 18 minutes (for crispier cookies).
Let cookies completely cool on a baking rack, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep at least two weeks.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Times Colonist Life section Wednesday and Sunday.