I didn’t grown up with Halloween, so even after living in the US for 21 years (how did that happen?!), it doesn’t have the same meaning for me as the die-hards around me. (I’m sure if I had grown up collecting pails of candy with my friends, and dressing up in lavish costumes, it would be my fayyyvorite holiday!)
But I did grow up with a tradition of ginger cookies.
My love for ginger “biscuits”—as we called them in South Africa—began with these very gingersnaps that my step-mom, Pam, used to make. They’re characteristically crunchy, but if you prefer a chewy cookie, just bake for less time. I like them perfectly crispy around the edges with just a little chew in the middle. Yum!
If you’re not gonna frost them, painting them with egg gives them a glossy sheen, but if you forget this step (like I did) they will still be delish!
My favorite taster said they’re just right! (She’s munching on a ghost cookie—in case you’re wondering.)
And even after being rolled and re-rolled they were still pretty yummy! Though I did leave these in the oven for about 30 seconds too long so they’re crrrrrispy! Make sure to keep an eye on them because every minute counts!
In my recent trip to South Africa, I poured over Pam’s recipe book, taking snaps of all my childhood favs. (I sure wish I would’ve been more interested when I lived there.)
How cool is this? The original recipe from her mom, Nan, who was a fabulous baker.
You know I just couldn’t stop there though, right? I modified the recipe (after my usual hours of research and testing) which called for creaming the eggs and sugar. (Yes, you read that correctly) There are so few recipes that require this step, that I decided to go with the simpler method of whisking and stirring—from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book (fabulous book) . I mean, why bring out the mixer unless absolutely necessary, right? And this way my daughter can be involved in the mixing too—not just the cutting and frosting.
You might be wondering why they call for such a large amount of baking soda (2 teaspoons). This is so that they rise dramatically and then collapse, leaving the cute crackles on the surface. It also allows for better browning and the cracks in the dough allow more moisture to escape, making them crispier.
Refrigerating the dough deepens the flavor and makes it easier to work with. (especially if you’re making them into balls) But if you don’t have time for this step, it’s fine to omit it. (As you can see, the original recipe doesn’t call for it) If you do, refrigerate in three disks wrapped in plastic wrap to make it easier to roll out when you’re ready. Let them sit at room temperature for about ten minutes before rolling out.
Syrup Tip: Spray the measuring cup first with no flavor cooking spray (like canola oil spray) to get the syrup out easily. Or just use a rubber spatula!
If you don’t feel like rolling out the dough, you could just roll tablespoons of dough into little balls, roll in sugar and bake. (Refrigerate the dough for an hour before rolling into balls.) This will yield a thicker cookie… and you won’t have the fun of cutting different shapes—which kids especially love to do. But I’m just giving you options peeps!
Oh… And Happy Halloween! (This is my first time dressing up for real! Hubby and little one picked matching Strawberry Shortcake dresses while I was away in South Africa. I’m not sure what he was thinking getting me a mini-skirt that barely covers my you-know-what… but stay tuned for pics in case I brave it!)
- 4 cups (20oz) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting board
- 2 teaspoons baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 250g unsalted butter (two sticks)
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- pinch ground cloves (optional)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup (6 oz) golden syrup (recommended: Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature plus one beaten egg for painting
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
- Melt butter in a small, microwaveable dish. Transfer immediately to a large, glass mixing bowl. Whisk in the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves (if using). Allow to cool a bit, 1 - 2 minutes.
- Add sugar and syrup and whisk to combine.
- Add eggs and whisk well to combine completely.
- Add flour mixture (in two batches) and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula until just incorporated.
- Lay a third of the dough on plastic wrap, flatten gently with your hand into a disk, wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour to overnight. Repeat with the other two thirds of the dough so you have three disks of dough.
- Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Lightly flour the rolling pin and the top of the dough if necessary. Re-roll the scraps and repeat.
- When you’re ready to bake the cookies, set the shelf to the middle and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Dip a 2 3/4 inch round cutter (or whatever fun shapes you’re using) in flour and make rounds. Place on prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch in between. (They will rise and spread quite a bit)
- Paint with beaten egg.
- Bake for 11 - 14 minutes, rotating sheets halfway. They should be a nice, deep brown color. If you like a chewier cookie take them out when the middles are still a little soft—they will still harden when out of the oven. The longer you bake them the crispier they will get. Watch carefully because every minute counts! Transfer parchment paper immediately to a wire cooling rack (allowing air to circulate and steam to escape from their undersides).
- They will keep for 1 week in an airtight container. They freeze very well in ziploc freezer bags.