Today the ToOC December series of staff favorite recipes comes to a close with my own contribution to the roundup, happy to be in the very good company of Senior Editor Chris Christensen’s favorite Pumpkin Pie, Senior Editor Anne Valdespino’s Buñuelos, Art Director Mindy Benham’s lime-glazed Cream Cheese Pound Cake, Contributing Editor Cynthia Furey’s Brown Sugar Cookies, and Editor-in-Chief Martin J. Smith’s Southern Pecan Pralines.
Mine is a modest offering, in a way, a homely gingersnap—but a gingersnap that has a couple of really good things going for it. It’s made with whole wheat flour, and it is depth-charged with jewels of crystallized ginger. The original recipe came to me from a long-defunct little newspaper, the Fullerton Daily News-Tribune, whose back shop I worked in during college, as part of one of those no-byline, wire-service topical features—probably titled, without even a whiff of facetiousness, “Cookies for Complements!” or similar—that spooled out of the copy printer like ticker-tape, lots of short hits designed for ultimate hole-filling flexibility during page production. It caught my eye, though; I love the whole family of ginger molasses spice this & that, and I love whole wheat. So. Been working on ‘em ever since. Alterations through the years include: Adding the other spices besides ginger; radically increasing the ginger; using raw sugar for coating rather than granulated white; and finally, adding crystallized ginger in teensy brunoise.
Though a substantial little cookie, no one has ever guessed the whole wheat flour, not that I keep it a secret. There’s a lot going on in the ginger/molasses/spice family flavor profile, I think, and the whole wheat supports that, rather than announcing itself separately.
Fresh, as in not-rancid, flour is essential, so do start with a new bag. I use a lovely, very finely ground whole-wheat flour from Giusto’s, but have had good results too with the fine one called atta, available in Indian markets, of which we have a plethora here in Orange County. If using regular whole wheat flour, you might run it through the food processor briefly to break down the large pieces of bran.
Our own Mother’s Market bulk department has for years had superior crystallized ginger. You can even (hygienically, using only the provided scoop, of course), carefully, dare I say gingerly, pick out the nice even flat slices that are easiest to stack and cut into uniform squares. And make sure your ground ginger is snappy as well: I have an annual ritual of restocking my Penzeys ginger and other baking spices in late fall.
I hope one or more of these recipes gets a run-through in your own kitchen during the holidays. If not, be sure to file them away. These are the sort of useful, timeless recipes that earn their keep year after year. Which is, of course, exactly how they ended up here!
(Makes about 5 dozen cookies)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dark- brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
4 ounces crystallized ginger, diced fine
Raw sugar for coating
Oven 375 degrees.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Cream butter, add sugar and continue beating until light. Beat in spices, molasses, and egg.
Add dry ingredients by thirds, mixing well after each. Mix in crystallized ginger, if using. Chill dough about 1 hour.
Using 1 tablespoon dough, roll into balls with very light pressure for maximum cracked-top effect, and coat with raw sugar. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets 2 inches apart.
Bake about 14 minutes, exchanging pan positions and turning back to front at halfway point.
Remove carefully to cooling rack.