Ginger is one of my favorite holiday flavors. Most every year I bake Gingerbread Cookies for the holidays. I like them crispy or chewy, with a robust blend of spices including chocolate, coffee and even pepper or with a breezier palate of ginger and citrus. Whatever the recipe I love the way the spicy notes scent the kitchen and invite memories of Christmases past.
This year I observed that spicy tradition with a new recipe I found in an issue of Cook’s Illustrated. This recipe is said to be the result of over 50 batches of experimentation to come up with the best blend of crisp and chewy and the best medley of warm spicy notes. I loved reading about the process and reasoning behind each step of the recipe as well as a breakdown on the best brands of molasses to use.
…In Small Packages
With all that research going into the recipe there was little room for constructive adaptation, and still….
I really wanted smaller cookies. I am willing to risk my spice cookies turning out on the crunchy side and I prefer Christmas cookies that are small enough to allow for tasting several kinds with a single cup of coffee. So I made mine about half the size suggested, roughly 2 teaspoons of dough in each rather than a heaping Tablespoon, yielding nearly 5 dozen cookies.
I also avoided rolling the dough into balls by hand. Instead I used my 1¼ inch cookie scoop to form the dough, leveling it off on the rim of the bowl and then dropping it into the sugar to coat.
The result was my idea of perfect: small, fragrant, spicy, a bit crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside. These spicy gems offer a little taste of Christmas in every delicious bite.
From Cook’s Illustrated "Holiday Baking" Issue
Yield: 4-5 dozen cookies 2-inch cookies
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus ½ cup for dipping)
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup molasses
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place ½ cup granulated sugar in an 8 or 9-inch cake pan. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt and spices.
In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 3 minutes.)
Add the egg yolk and vanilla. Continue beating until blended.
Add molasses. Continue beating until fully incorporated.
Add the flour mixture stirring or beating until just incorporated, forming a smooth soft dough.
Using a 1¼ cookie scoop ( or a rounded teaspoon) scoop dough in balls and drop into the sugar in the cake pan, 4 or so at a time. Toss gently until the dough balls are well coated in the sugar. Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake 1 cookie sheet at a time until edges have set, about 8-10 minutes. (In my oven 9 minutes was the right number for crisp but still chewy. 8 minutes yielded a very soft cookie and 10 minutes was enough to make them crispy. Watch carefully. Ovens vary. )
Remove cookies. Place cookie sheet on wire rack, leaving cookies on the cookie sheet to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
For a crunchier texture and more sparkle, use turbinado sugar to coat the balls of dough rather than plain white sugar.
To add variety I drizzled Dark Rum Glaze over half of the cookies. Whisk together ½ cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 – 1½ Tablespoons dark rum. Arrange cookies on a baking rack. Using a spoon, drizzle the rum glaze over the cooled cookies. Allow glaze to set before storing in an airtight container.