Every December, my mother bakes cookies. She makes five different kinds and the selection has never changed. Will never change, so I thought. After all, her cookie assortment has been exactly the same since I was a little girl and my brother and I, raised in a home that celebrated both Rosh Hashana and Easter, left plates of sweets out for Santa on Christmas Eve.
I love my mother’s cookies. There are little pecan-studded rounds baked until bronze and coated in thick layers of powdered sugar, which are impossible to eat without a dusting on your clothes, like snow. There are oversized chocolate-chunk “Monsters,” peanut butter disks imprinted with Hershey’s Kisses, and gingerbread men decorated with garish sprinkles. My favorites are the sugar cookies, the ones that my Danish grandfather used to make when my mother was young, which are piped into delicate circles on sheets of parchment paper.
Today, the production is down to a science. These cookies are written in stone.
But there I was this weekend, spending some time at home, helping my mother bake. Inspired by Kim Boyce’s new cookbook, Good to the Grain, which I bought on a whim the week before, I decided to test something new. Normally, I would not be drawn to a cookbook that focuses on the use of whole grain flours. Cookies aren’t meant to be healthy, I think. But praise for Boyce has been all over the web. And, as I had read, her use of alternative flours like barley, corn, or rye add flavor and texture—not health, believe me!—to her goods.
I had already made her “Chocolate Chocolate Cookies,” which are tender and nutty with spelt flour and cacao nibs. I’d been eating her “Huckle Buckle,” a tame yet flavorful coffee cake baked with layers of blueberries, for breakfast for days. But with my mother on Friday, I tried Boyce's Gingersnaps.
These gingersnaps use fresh ginger as well as powdered, and a bit of whole-wheat flour alongside the white. They aren’t crunchy but soft and chewy, intensely flavored with a spicy bite. I don’t think I can say much more than this: Make these cookies.
Yesterday, in fact, my mother sent me a text message:
Molly, can you send me the gingersnap cookie recipe? It is a keeper and I want to make some for my Xmas cookie assortment. What ingredients do I need to buy?
Here you go, Mom:
Adapted from Kim Boyce (and Amy Scattergood)’s Good to the Grain
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsulphered molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
Mix together the melted butter, sugars, molasses, ginger, and egg. Sift the dry ingredients into the same bowl. Stir to form a batter. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, positioning two racks to the upper and lower third. Grease two baking sheets. Pour the final 1/2 cup of sugar into a bowl.
Pluck pieces of dough around one tablespoon in size, toss in the bowl of sugar, and then roll into balls. Toss each ball back into the sugar for a second time, rolling them around until, as Boyce says, “they are sparkly white.” Place each on the baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between them all.
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cookies are dark in color and even all the way across. When out of the oven, immediately transfer to a cooling rack with a metal spatula. These cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. (That is, if they last that long.)