At this time of year, many food blogs showcase a lot of seasonal desserts: peppermint bark, eggnog cheesecake, white chocolate cranberry something, mint chocolate (shudder) some other thing, gingersnaps, Yulelog rolls, stuff colored red and green and so on. You might have noticed that, with a few exceptions, my blog doesn't really roll with that (yule)tide. I'm a Christmas freak when it comes to decorating, ornaments, and gift giving. And I bake a lot of gifts to give away. But not so much with the more traditional flavors typically associated with Christmas.
Sure, I'll do red velvet with the best of them, I'll mix in red and green M&Ms to some cookies, sprinkle red and green sugars on top of frosted cupcakes and camouflage the non-Christmas flavors with pretty Christmas packaging. In other words? I fake it. I can't help it. I don't like eggnog. I eat cranberries only baked into my pumpkin upside down cake with caramelized pecans. Peppermint is a gum, not a flavor in baked goods (I don't eat candy canes either). Do not ever pair mint with chocolate and offer it to me. You might as well hand me a piece of fudge and ask me to brush my teeth at the same time.
I do occasionally take a stab at ginger molasses cookies as some kind of nod to the flavors of Christmas. I actually have nothing against either ginger or molasses. I like ginger in savory foods, less so in baked goods. Molasses I can take in small, small doses. Even the mild version is strong for me. But I think hope springs eternal that I will find a recipe I will fall in love with and become a gingersnap/ginger cookies fiend and then I can fit in with all the seasonal posts flying around. So I keep trying.
This is one of those attempts. It's from Baking Style by Lisa Yockelson and I trust her completely to have excellent recipes. Because she does and I've proven it out time and again with various brownies, bar cookies, cookies and cake recipes. So I thought this would be a safe choice. Plus, since I've become such a Penzey's fan, for once, I wasn't put off by all the spices in the recipe because I either wanted an excuse to buy what I didn't have from Penzey's or use up what I did have so I could buy new ones from Penzey's.
This is the kind of recipe where it's easier and less intimidating if you do a proper mise en place. Meaning, measure out all of your dry ingredients first and combine them before you start mixing the dough. That way you won't get confused on what you did and didn't already add to the mixing bowl. Then it's just easier to mix everything all at once.
I also used this recipe as an excuse to buy crystallized ginger, also from Penzey's. Granted, I was conservative and only bought the little jar which meant I was about 1/2 cup short of the amount called for in the recipe. No matter, I just needed to try a little of it in the cookies. I'm not entirely sure if they added anything to it, either because I didn't have/use enough for it to matter or whether the ginger flavor got lost in the molasses. If you make this recipe, you probably want to use the right amount and see for yourself.
As ginger molasses cookies go, this was good. I don't know that I'd go into raptures for it but surprisingly, I liked it. At least I liked the one I baked properly. The first batch I did I was too paranoid about overbaking so I took them out a minute or so too soon so the texture was a little gummy. The second batch had a much better texture and I liked it a lot better. You can see the difference in the pictures. So for once, I don't advise underbaking too much. I still wouldn't want it overbaked but this is a case of bake until "just right" and you'll get a much better texture like in the picture below.
From Baking Style
3 cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons solid shortening
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons light unsulphured molasses
2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
Sugar and spice rolling mixture
3/4 cup granulated sugar blended with 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.
2. Cream the shortening and butter in the large bowl of a stand mixer on medium-low speed for 4 minutes. Add the sugar in 3 additions, beat on low speed for 1 minute after each addition. Blend in whole egg and egg yolk. Blend in the molasses and vanilla extract.
3. On low speed, mix in the sifted ingredients in 3 additions, beating just until absorbed. Blend in the chopped crystallized ginger with the last addition. Scrape down sides of the mixing bowl to keep dough even textured.
Refrigerate the dough for 3 hours or until moldable and rollable into balls. Once chilled, portion the dough into golf-ball-size dough balls, cover and freeze for several hours or overnight.
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (I baked it at 350 degrees and it was fine). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Place the sugar and spice rolling mixture in a shallow bowl. Roll each frozen dough ball in the mixture and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart.
6. Bake for 14 minutes or until set. Let stand on cookie sheets for 1 minute then transfer to cooling racks using a wide metal spatula to cool completely.
Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: pumpkin upside down cake with caramelized pecans