12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Gingersnaps

Growing up, one of the biggest signs that announced “It’s Christmas!” was eating the gingersnaps my grandfather baked each year.

He passed away almost three years ago, and today was his birthday. (That’s a picture of us opening a Christmas present in 1983.) I’m glad I can share his gingersnap recipe now.

My grandfather was a geology professor, and he got this gingersnap recipe from the secretary of the geology department at his first job, at the University of Rochester. This was in the early 1950s, and he made the same cookies for more than 50 years after that.

The memory of a taste is a powerful thing. It is able to instantly whisk you back to a time and place you hadn’t thought about in years. I baked my grandfather’s gingersnaps for the first time yesterday, and took a bite of a cookie once they had cooled. Without having to close my eyes I was transported back to my grandparents’ kitchen table. It was dark outside, and we had finished dinner. I watched the candles on the table flicker as I let the perfect crunchy mix of butter, flour, sugar and spice dissolve on my tongue. It’s very reassuring to know that with just one taste of a cookie, I can remember a whole time, place and person.

This is a straightforward recipe that delivers wonderful results. It’s interesting to compare the ingredients in these gingersnaps to the ginger molasses crinkles I shared earlier. They are certainly similar, but the slight differences (butter instead of shortening, white sugar instead of brown, a lot less ginger, a little more salt and cloves and a little more cooking time at a lower temperature) make a big difference.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Raw sugar, for rolling

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the molasses and egg and beat until thoroughly incorporated.

 

 

Step 2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt.

 

 

 

Step 3. Add the dry to the wet ingredients and stir on low speed until combined.

 

 

 

Step 4.  The shaping and rolling in sugar is the most important step. These cookies spread a lot, so it’s important to make small balls – no bigger than a walnut – with two small spoons. Then roll in raw sugar until no more sticks.

Step 5. Bake for 12-15 minutes. I pulled mine out after 13 minutes and they were still slightly chewy in the center. (The outside was plenty crunchy, so I think they fairly qualified as a gingersnap.) Cook for another minute or two to make a completely hard cookie.

Depending on how small your dough balls are, this recipe makes 36-48 cookies.

  • Mom

    I can taste them now, just reading your description. So nice you can continue his tradition.

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