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Gingersnaps are cookies which are sweetened with molasses and spiced with ginger. Traditionally, the cookies are very crispy, so that they make a snapping noise when they are bitten into. Numerous variants on the gingersnap exist around the world, and the cookies are very popular as a snack food, especially during the holidays. Many companies make packaged gingersnaps which can be found for sale in various markets, and they are also very easy to make at home.
The origins of the gingersnap are probably quite old. Ginger has been used as a spice for centuries, and at one point it was highly valued for its supposed health value. Spiced cookies and breads were very popular during the Middle Ages, and they tended to be sweetened with honey, since it was the only sweetener which was readily available. Both England and Germany have a long history of spicy cookies which tend to be dark and flavorful.
Since gingersnaps are made with molasses, rather than refined sugar, they have a very dark color and a rich flavor. Often, other spices in addition to ginger are used, and gingersnaps tend to be more lightly sweetened than some other cookies and cakes. The cookies can be eaten plain, or used as garnishes on other desserts such as mousse and gelato. Since the cookies are so hard, they are also excellent as dippers for tea and coffee.
To make gingersnaps, sift together three cups of all purpose flour, two teaspoons of powdered ginger, one teaspoon each of cinnamon and baking soda, and one quarter teaspoon cloves, along with a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, cream three quarters cup butter together with three quarters cup brown sugar. Add one egg and one quarter cup dark molasses, blending thoroughly before mixing in the dry ingredients. For more texture and flavor, try adding finely chopped candied or crystallized ginger to the dough before adding the dry ingredients.
Chill the dough for several hours to make it easier to work with. With a floured scoop, pull out balls of the dough and flatten them slightly with your hands before laying them out on an oiled cookie sheet. If desired, sprinkle the gingersnaps with granulated sugar for more texture. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (191 degrees Celsius) for eight to 10 minutes, until the cookies have browned. Cool the gingersnaps on cookie racks before packing them into an airtight container.
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