This year I decided I had better get organized and post a holiday cookie slightly sooner than 2 days before Christmas. My sister visited last weekend and we spent a day in the kitchen banging out a mass of holiday treats traditional in our family, including brown sugar shortbread, not-too-rummy chocolate rum balls, and these ginger snaps. Since neither my sister or I are heading back to Vancouver for the holidays this year we decided to throw a holiday dinner with all the trimmings. We canvased our mothers for instructions and made must have items from our family (East Coast stuffing, Nicky Balls – the not-too-rummy chocolate rum balls) and from Paul’s (perogies, mushroom sauce, and cabbage soup) along with fish, turkey, roasted veggies, and some really tremendous company. We all agreed that everything we made was good, but not the same as when our mothers make it. Of course, that didn’t stop us from gorging ourselves on it and we had to roll ourselves out the door to our next social engagement, where, and I’m not naming names, one of us *may* have had to take a wee lie down on the guest bed. Ah, tis the season.
This was my grandfather’s gingersnap recipe, and my grandfather took his gingersnaps real serious. He liked them thin and he liked them snappy, so much so that he bought himself a deli style meat slicer and would form the dough into logs which he’d then freeze and later slice into thin, thin cookies to bake.
I’ve changed these up in a few ways. First, as I’ve been doing with all of the recipes that have come from my grandparents, I’ve swapped out shortening for butter. It’s a pretty straightforward swap, but bear in mind when doing so that shortening is 100% fat and butter is 85% fat and 15% water, so your baked goods will turn out a bit differently. The extra water might make these gingersnaps slightly less snappy, but frankly I haven’t noticed and would rather use a natural fat in my baking. I’ve also used blackstrap rather than fancy molasses because I had to traipse all over Stockholm and pay an exorbitant price to get my hands on real molasses rather than mörk sirap (literal translation; dark syrup) which is molasses-y but not, in my humble opinion, molasse-y enough. I eventually sourced out blackstrap molasses at a health food store. Lastly, rather than using a deli meat slicer I’ve rolled out the dough and cut it out into festive shapes, including, as you can see, heart shapes, which are traditional at Christmas time here in Sweden. We even tried a heart shaped gingersnap with a smudge of blue cheese on it, which is the thing to do in Sweden in December. And you know, it didn’t gross me out like it did last year. I must be assimilating.
What are the must have items you’ll be making this month? Are there any holiday recipes you’re hoping to see here?
One year ago: Hej Då, Stockholm
Adapted from Grandpa Trant’s Gingersnaps
This recipe makes a lot of cookies. The actual number you end up with depends largely on how thin you roll the dough and the size of your cookie cutters. I’d estimate we got at least 6 -8 dozen fairly large cookies. Use a stand mixer or a wooden spoon to do the mixing – a flimsy spatula has no business here.
1 cup / 225g / 8 oz butter
1 cup molasses (I used blackstrap)
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups all purpose flour
In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Add molasses and stir to combine. Just barely bring this mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Add ginger, baking soda, sugar, and salt and mix until well combined. Add the egg. Once the egg is worked through start adding flour one cup at a time, ensuring the flour is fully incorporated each time. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 portions, and form each portion into a flat, round disk. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
When you are ready to make the gingersnaps preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough out to desired thinness – the thinner the cookie the shorter the cooking time and the crispier the cookie will be. These were about 1/2 cm thin. Cut out shapes and place onto baking sheet. If you are like me and own only one baking sheet you’ll have to do many rotations of the tray, but don’t worry about it, you’ll get to eat fresh warm gingersnaps to ‘test’ each tray. Depending on thinness, bake gingersnaps for about 8-12 mintues, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Using a spatula remove cookies from the sheet and cool on a wire rack. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the freezer.
Do ahead: Dough can be made ahead and will last about a week in the fridge wrapped tightly in plastic. You can also freeze the dough and thaw at room temp when you are ready to make the cookies. Baked cookies will last about a week in an airtight container, or much longer in the freezer.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2011