Ultimate Ginger Cookies Recipe

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who understand ginger cookies and people who do not. The people who do not understand ginger cookies are the ones who relegate the whole breed to strict duty as crumbs for crust when graham crackers have gone out of fashion. But there is a world of difference between a ginger-snap, a ginger cookie, and a gingerbread cookie. Bear with me. I know those of you who don't give two spits about any kind of ginger cookie won't care, but if you'll hang on two moments, you'll be able to argue the provenance of the varieties of ginger cookies with the best of them.
In the medieval time-period, "gingerbread" didn't even refer to a cookie, rather to preserved ginger. However, by the time heads began to roll during the Wars of the Roses, the English at least had the warmth of gingerbread (in its various forms) to console them for the (bloody) effort of discussing whether red or white roses were more appropriate for arrangement in London palaces. In the beginning (and continuing) in the British and greater-European tradition we find the most common form of "gingerbread" being hard cookies baked in an endless parade of shapes. It's really an American thing to consider warm, spicy, muffin-like loaves or squares as "gingerbread." It is now common to assume that unless "gingerbread cake" is specified, a person is referring to the hard, shaped cookies used for gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, and gingerbread ornaments.

Gingersnaps are a close cousin to gingerbread and could essentially be interchangeable except for the fact that they're quite boring and never baked in any other shape but rounds. I mean, what a life. Change your shape for a second and you're mislabeled as gingerbread. Talk about prejudice. The "snap" part of gingersnaps came round during the Colonial period when it was noticed that when bitten into, the hard gingerbread rounds made a snapping sound. Gold star for participation, Betsy Ross. While I still like gingersnaps with a cold glass of milk on a raw November day, I vote that most gingersnaps end up in a cheesecake with a gingersnap crust.

Ginger Cookies
Here we get to the bit I'm most passionate about. Ginger cookies. When I refer to a ginger cookie I'm talking about a very precarious, particular, and perfect combination of molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and at least two forms of ginger. I'm talking about dark spice and a chewy texture. I'm talking about cookies which bake up like a dream and pair exquisitely with black coffee, lemon tea, or your morning commute to work. Here we discard all the polite hinting at ginger which bakers have relegated themselves to since the first housewife to bake a pan of ginger-flavored biscuits came up with the idea. A ginger cookie is big and bold with enough flavor to stay on a bucking horse.

The whisky shot of the cookie world, let me introduce you to a recipe I've tried and tried again and again. I've tweaked the spices, the ratios of ginger-to-chewiness, as well as the other ingredients until I really feel I've got a good shot at calling these...

The Ultimate Ginger Cookie 
(10-12 large cookies)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large ginger root, peeled and minced (approximately 3/4 cups minced fresh ginger), tossed with sugar OR 1 1/4 cups candied ginger, minced
demerara or granulated sugar, for rolling cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter, brown sugar, and molasses by hand or with mixer until very fluffy. Add egg and beat one minute longer. Add minced fresh ginger.
  3. Sift together dry ingredients and add to butter mixture, stirring well. If dough is a little soft, let it rest in the fridge for an hour.
  4. Roll into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball, then roll into sugar. Set on cookie sheets at least 2" apart. Sprinkle with a little more sugar. Flatten slightly with the heel of your hand.
  5. Bake for 13 minutes until tops are crackled and set. Allow to cool completely before removing from trays.

Harvest Moon Snickerdoodle Cookies

October is that time of year when every moonrise seems more bafflingly beautiful than the night before. It's like every evening I have to stop and stare at that beautiful harvest moon, rising pumpkin orange against the forest before sliding into its cool, blue-white garments for the rest of the night. Inspired by the recent giant moonrises, I tweaked a classic Snickerdoodle Cookie recipe to fit the Harvest Moon and my autumn school-theme with the girls I take care of. Because I like to avoid using food dye when possible, these are colored with a couple tablespoons of straight-up carrot juice which, while not affecting flavor or texture in the slightest, give off a lovely shade of gold. Also, in interest of preserving some semblance of health in a cookie not known for being a super-food, my recipe calls for coconut oil instead of butter and natural cane sugar instead of the bleached stuff. Add a little nutmeg and some orange flavoring and you're ready to cart these babies out to a country field to watch the next blood-moon pop over the horizon.

Harvest Moon Snickerdoodle Cookies
(approximately 18 "harvest moons")

1/2 cup coconut oil, solid
1 cup all natural cane sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Additional sugar for rolling

  1. By hand, cream coconut oil and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and extracts and beat gently.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients, then add to the coconut oil mixture. Mix well. Cover and chill in fridge 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In flat dish mix additional sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Form small balls of dough and roll in spiced sugar, then set 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet. That bit is important.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden on the edges. Cool slightly, then remove to rack to finish cooling. 

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon buns are one of those things that I always have trouble saying "no" to. I mean, how can you look a cinnamon bun in the face and in good conscious leave it for someone else to eat? Especially when we're talking freshly made cinnamon buns. I present to you the idea that you cannot justifiably ignore them. Adoption. Adoption is key. And guys, if I may make so bold as to introduce you to my newest baby: caramel apple cinnamon rolls. The love-child of a bakery an an apple-orchard and duly spiced with cinnamon freshly-grated ginger, you can take one look at those faces and know they belong in your family. Right now.

 Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

- rolls -
1 cup whole milk
8 Tablespoons salted butter, melted
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup natural sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt

- filling -
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cups natural sugar 
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
2 gala apples, shredded with juice squeezed out

- caramel glaze - 
8 Tablespoons salted butter
5 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup packed brown sugar
  1. Heat cream and butter in pan on stove-top till butter is melted. Allow to cool slightly, then whisk in yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let proof 5 minutes.
  2. When yeast is proofed, add to a large bowl along with 1 cup of the flour, sugar, egg, and salt. Mix together by hand for three minutes, then gradually add remainder of flour. Add more flour if needed to make soft, pliable dough.
  3. Turn dough onto floured counter-top and knead several minutes until smooth. Allow to rise in warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.
  4. Turn risen dough onto floured counter-top and roll into large rectangle. Spread with butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and apple shreds over top. Scrub the filling into the dough, then roll into a log.
  5. Slice into thick chunks using a knife or dental floss, as exhibited in the video below (pardon my pajamas!). Put into greased 9x13" baking pan and allow to rise another 40 minutes.
  6. Bake rolls at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 18-20 minutes.
  7. While baking, make caramel glaze by melting butter in a saucepan. Add the brown sugar and heavy cream and cook for one moment, then drizzle over the warm buns before serving.