Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ginger crinkles

I make these soft ginger cookies every year for Christmas. It's a fairly standard recipe, but I got my version from a restaurant (and later a cookbook the owners published) that I frequented during college.

The Soup Bowl had a limited menu -- a choice of two soups, two breads and two desserts -- but the options changed daily, so it wasn't as limited as it sounds, and it meant that everything on the menu was fresh that day, and everything was the best thing they did, no options that fell in the category of, "oh, well, we might as well offer it, since someone, sometime might want it."

This recipe comes out well, no matter what, but for truly stunning results, use top-quality spices, like Penzey's (or the spice specialist of your choice). I haven't received anything in return for mentioning them; I just love their products. The year I switched from standard grocery-store ginger to Penzey's ginger, the flavor was so much better, I couldn't believe it was the same recipe.

You can make these up ahead of time, all the way to rolling them into balls and squashing them in the sugar, and then freeze them to cook later. Place the balls of dough on a cookie tray in the freezer, wait until they freeze solid, and then dump them into a freezer bag. You don't have to thaw them before cooking, just add a minute or two to the cooking time. You can also make a "mix" ahead of time, of all the dry ingredients (not sugar). I make several batches of the mix to have on hand, or to share with friends, since a lot of the prep time is just finding the spaces and measuring them. I line up four custard cups (to make 4 batches), and measure the spices and baking soda into them, assembly-line style. Measure the flour into a gallon-sized zipper bag, toss in the spices and then mix it all together. Stores in the pantry for a year or so.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4 1/2 cups flour
4 t. baking soda
4 t. ginger
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1/4 t. salt

1 1/2 cups shortening
1 pound brown sugar (I use dark brown)

Blend in and mix well:
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. The dough will be quite stiff.

Dump onto a large cutting board covered with plastic wrap. Roll out to about half an inch thick. Cut into 1" squares. (I find this easier than using a spoon to apportion the dough, but that works too.) Roll the dough into 1" balls.

Pour some white sugar into a custard cup or similar small bowl. Drop the rolled dough balls into the sugar and squash them slightly, so that they're pressed into the sugar. This gives them a nice surface texture. Place on a cookie tray, sugared side up, and bake for about 8 minutes. They're cooked when the tops get crinkly. If you leave them longer, they'll get crispy; too long and they'll burn.

I use a silicone sheet in the cookie tray and find that the cookies take an extra minute or so to cook, but they're less likely to burn. Plus, the silicone sheet is easy to clean, when the sugar falls off the cookie and then caramelizes on the cookie sheet.

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