If you are a ginger fan you’re going to love these chewy, spicy gingerbread cookies.
Ginger is perfect this time of year – the peppery spice warming tastebuds and tummies. Although this ancient spice is native to China and India, it is one of the most popular spices of the world. . .
What we know as gingerbread today is far from its original form. In fact, what was referred to as “gingerbread” in medieval English cookery, was actually a medicinal candy made of ginger and sugar. Back then, the term was used loosely to refer to candy as well as breads, which were also eaten for medicinal purposes. Later gingerbread evolved into a highly spiced honey cake, influenced by the German Lebkuchen and Roman honey cakes.
In the 1500s, English gingerbreads denoted highly spiced, crisp cookies. They were eaten after dipping in wine or cider and were also used for holiday ornaments. The crisp cookie version carried over to the new world. Then, when leavening agents were introduced, the term “gingerbread” in the U.S. referred to ginger-spiced cakes.
Whether cake or cookie, “gingerbread” has been enjoyed during the holidays for hundreds of years. And, although there were special gingerbread bakers in Europe who were a distinct sub-group of the baker’s guild, no special certificate is required to make these cookies.
Hard v. Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
I’m not a fan of the hard-as-brick versions of gingerbread and the thin ginger snaps aren’t interesting to me – I’m more a fan of the ginger and not the snap. So, the recipe below is for a thick, chewy and spicy ginger cookie.
Apparently, the key to getting a chewy cookie is having at least 4 tablespoons butter per cup of flour. Cooks Illustrated got me straight on that. However, as far as process, Heidi at 101 Cookbooks (one of my favorite food bloggers) made some triple ginger cookies awhile back that did not require pulling out the food processor or mixer.
The recipe below is adapted from both. These cookies are the trifecta of ginger – fresh, ground and crystallized. It’s aggressive but not overly sharp, balanced by the molasses. If you’ve followed me for awhile you know I don’t like things super sweet. If you do, up the sugar a few tablespoons and also roll the balls of dough in large grain sugar before baking.
These chewy gingerbread cookies would be great in a holiday cookie exchange.
Chewy Triple Gingerbread Cookies
Makes 4 ½ dozen small cookies
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup large grain sugar/sea salt – for finishing (optional)*
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust racks – one in top 1/3 oven – second in bottom 1/3 oven.
- Peel and grate fresh ginger; set aside. Finely chop crystallized ginger; set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, flour, baking soda and salt. Add crystallized ginger, separate if it clumps and stir to incorporate. Set aside.
- In a medium-size skillet or small pot, over low heat, add butter – when it has melted almost half way. Turn off the heat and add the fresh ginger, brown sugar, molasses. Mixture should be warm to touch not hot. Add beaten egg and stir to incorporate. Pour over flour mixture. Stir until combined – do not overwork the dough.
- Shape dough into balls (1/2 tablespoon dough for small cookies – 1 1/2 inch; 1 heaping tablespoon dough for 3 inch). Balls should be placed at least 2 inches apart for smaller cookies/ 3 inches for larger.
- *Optional: For a prettier cookie, coat each ball with large granule sugar/sea salt before baking.
- Bake for 8 to 9 minutes for small cookies; 10 – 12 for larger. Cookies are done when they have risen and cookies crack. Do not overbake – underbaking is better. Store in airtight container for about 1 week.