Life is Great

The Delicious Appreciations of Pick Yin

Not exactly predictable.
Has enough brains for codes
(but can be completely clueless on other more important matters).
Likes her Joe (and her man?) black, her chocolate dark and her food spicy.
“Quam bene vivas refert, non quam diu.” — Seneca

Total Posts   191      Last Updated   23 November 2015 12:00 PM (GMT +8)

Friday, December 02, 2011


christmas gingersnaps

I'm sure by now you've gotten over the "What? It's December already? Where did the year go?" moment and recollected yourself just long enough to realize yes, it's that time of the year again. The time where at most places and offices, it's largely an unproductive month and work just gets literally dragged in that festive, oh-that-can-wait-till-later slow motion mood. (I wonder why Pope Gregory XIII didn't just declare the whole of it a vacation back in 1582.) And then of course, every time we hit the shops for necessities, we're reminded by an ever faint and distant jingle bells, jingle bells that it's time to arrange for gift giving, tree trimming and, if you're like me, cookie baking. I love Christmas though, having been brought up in a home with a green fake pine (one year my mother even attempted fake snow with bits of polystyrene in place of her trusty cotton wool), booze laden fruit cake (yes, it's my mother's recipe, and yes, I will attempt that this year) and Smurfs Christmas carols (don't ask).

christmas gingersnaps

Last year, despite just returning from a dreamy vacation down south, we did end up with a big bird which fed us for a month, complete with cranberry jam and gravy. In the midst of recovering from a post-holiday depression (that's really an exaggeration but hey, it was Melbourne-Great Ocean Road-Philip Island-Sydney back to Singapore), I barely baked a batch of these on Christmas Eve, which turned out pretty much sub-par by our standards - and I believe this was by no fault of Deb or the recipe, just our own preferences when it comes to what goes into our cookie jars. So when she came up with this just after Thanksgiving this year - neatly piled up rounds of deep, dark handsomeness promising not only gingery spiciness but snap! - I literally jumped off my chair to the store for a bottle of allspice.

christmas gingersnaps

You see, since the gingerbread cookies episode, I've kept on a lookout for blackstrap molasses, which I didn't have then and therefore couldn't get my results as dark as Deb's. Sometime between then and half a year ago, I chanced upon this bottle hidden among other organic health foods at a rather new supermarket in town. This time round I was confident the gingersnaps would come out the color of chocolate and was not disappointed. In fact, they snapped so robustly I found the urge to 'test' each batch as an excuse to eat more. As Deb put it, the recipe is perfect. A good amount went into my care packages and gift boxes, leaving less than half for us to savor on rainy nights with coffee (Vijay) and milk (me, occasionally also with Milo).

christmas gingersnaps

While our December calendar looks to be peppered with short bursts of days away from the kitchen, I still have hopes to fill the back of my freezer with some reassurance and comfort of the imminent 12-days-to-Christmas cookie bake-off weeks, mind you. There will be another round of this, plus our favorite Korova cookies - double the recipes, but of course - and then some. And yes, the freezer, not cookies jars, because those things are never big enough.
Gingersnaps [Printer Friendly Version]

Barely adapted from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen, with original recipes from Sweet Melissa Patisserie, Cook's Illustrated and various other places.
Yield: about 6 dozen

Notes: For a stronger ginger kick, add 1-2 teaspoons of finely grated fresh ginger (with the wet ingredients) or 1-2 tablespoons finely minced candied ginger (with the dry ingredients). Various people commented on Deb's site on not being able to get the cookies as dark. I suspect the molasses used affects the color, so if you like yours the same, try to source for blackstrap molasses - I used the same one as Deb's. If you're like me, stuck in a hot and humid climate, return the dough to the fridge after each session of rolling out to maintain its firmness. My cookies spread more thinly so eyeball yours to see if you need to spread them apart more on the baking sheet.

  • 2 1/4 cups/281 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons/10 grams baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon/2-3 grams table salt
  • 3 teaspoons/6 grams ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon/2 grams ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon/1 gram allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon/ground white pepper
  • 2 sticks/8 ounces/227 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup/96 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup/79 milliliters unsulphured molasses

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl of a stand mixer fixed with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars together until fluffy, about three minutes on medium. Add egg and molasses and beat until combined. Add dry the ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined. Thoroughly scrape down bowl, ensuring that all the ingredients are evenly mixed.

Transfer your cookie dough to plastic wrap, using a plate to support it as it will be quite wet and soft. Chill in fridge for at least 2 hours, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and spread at least 2 inches apart (see my notes) on baking sheets that have either been greased or lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, which is the complete range. Between 10 to 12 minutes, the cookies will be softer. In the 13 to 15 range, they will be snappy. When done to your liking, leave them on their baking sheets long enough so they’re just firm to be transferred to a cooling rack with a spatula, anywhere between 2 to 5 minutes. Cool cookies completely before packing up in airtight containers.

Do ahead: In an airtight container at room temperature, the cookies will soften a bit each day. Mine remained snappy on day 5 in my trusted Tupperware. Cookies keep for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the freezer. You can keep balls of the unbaked dough in the freezer for up to 2 weeks and bake them as you need them.

9 Comments on Gingersnaps

i've gotten away from baking cookies, but something about December makes me actually ache to make them.

these are such beauties, and i bet make the most gorgeous care packages.

Posted by Anonymous Lan, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:02:00 PM  

That's exactly what I thought of deb's spicy gingerbread cookies!! So I guess that means that I should try these instead (:

Posted by Anonymous ash, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:02:00 PM  

Lan: I don't bake a lot of cookies either but the impending holidays just makes me want to have something nice (read: homemade) to munch with a cup of hot cocoa by the tree. (And watching Nigella's Christmas Kitchen doesn't help.)

ash: Ditto, these will not disappoint!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:02:00 PM  

These look perfect - thin and beautifully spiced and just the right amount of 'snap'. Gorgeous for christmas gifts, or to eat and keep yourself!

Posted by Anonymous thelittleloaf, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:02:00 PM  

These looks amazing pickyin! Love your photography.Seeing the pics, the kids wanted them too.Tom Yam Kung's photos were great.Was it natural light coming from the side ? How did you get only the subjects to look bright, darkening the background?

Posted by Anonymous Love and other spices, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:03:00 PM  

Your cookies are always so perfectly shaped.... how did you get them all the same size?

Posted by Anonymous shirley@kokken69, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:03:00 PM  

thelittleloaf: I'm leaning towards 'to eat and keep yourself' for the next batch. We only had about half with the first and were left hanging. I wolved down 5 just last night with, believe or not, ginger tea.

Love and other Spices: To be honest when I saw the photos on Deb's pumpkin mousse post (where this cookie made its debut appearance), I was WAITING for the recipe.

All my front view photos are taken on my trolley with natural light from a window on the right. I have a white reflector on the left sometimes (cheap, cake box cardboard) but I don't use it in all cases - sometimes shadows add depth to subjects like cakes and desserts. In this case, the tom yam was for dinner and it was almost raining around 5 PM when I shot the food. The 2 front shots were with shutter speeds 1.5 and 3 seconds, the aerial shot 6 seconds and by the time I shot the paste, it was storming and literally dark as night, I had to go at 10 seconds exposure.

In general it's not a good idea to shoot at such speed but I find that it works well with the lighting I have where we stay - it's kind of yellowish compared to natural light in 4-seasoned countries. I now shoot closer to evening when the light is softer but compensate with slower shutter speed.

Shirley: They're really not ALL the same size! Hence in that iPhone photo you see that I stack them up according to their various (I think 3) sizes - a few MM difference. I scooped mine out with a teaspoon then eyeballed the size while rolling them. My OCD would've driven me to weigh them all but they were a tad too wet/sticky to be on my weighing scale. Deb in her application suggested rolling out the cold dough into a flat sheet, cut out about 1-inch squares and rolling them but I thought that would be too much work.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:04:00 PM  

i just tried baking these cookies, and for some reason i can't get them to spread enough. they end up just puffing up and not getting the right consistency and shapefor gingersnaps. (AND the bottoms keep burning). should i let the dough warm up a little before putting them in the oven? or maybe reduce the overall temp a bit?

Posted by Anonymous Evans, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:04:00 PM  

Evans: Your problem sounds like an uneven oven temperature rather than the dough. Most cookie dough (even the fussiest ones) can go from freezer to bake without standing time. Try the following (since I'm not sure what oven you're using):
1. Moving your cookie sheets one level up.
2. If your oven is convection, preheat with fan on OR bake WITH fan on 20 degrees lower.
3. To prevent the bottoms from burning, line with slipat mats.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 1, 2012, 3:05:00 PM  

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