the continuing quest for the perfect gingerbread cookie

Another entrant in that classic holiday quest: the search for the perfect gingersomething cookie.
Gingerbread, gingersnap, whatever. I’m not sure which it was–it was really sort of in-between–but it’s this mythical cookie I recall fondly from my childhood, something my great-grandmother used to make. It was spicy and sharp, crisp around the edges. Definately butter, and ginger and cinnamon… and something.

Even though I have the recipe–supposedly–it’s never come out right. It burns, it sticks, it’s hard to roll out. I don’t have her delicate touch with tender doughs. I have her straight-up-in-a-loafpan gingerbread recipe, I can do that, and it’s fabulous. And the cookie variety is good (when I can
stumble through it)… but it’s pretty ordinary. And it doesn’t have the bite. There’s something that she put in it that I’ve just never thought to add. So I’m always on the lookout for something with that extra oomph.

And so this year I tried again. I don’t remember where I found the recipe — I want to say I traipsed there from D‘s blog somehow, but I can’t manage to find my way back now, so who knows. But it looked good, and it came highly recommended by someone who seemed to know what they were talking about. And the black pepper sounded promising. Recipe henceforth, after the jump.

Chez Panisse Gingersnaps

8 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 small eggs or 1 1/2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

  1. Cream butter until soft.
  2. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until fluffy.
  4. Add molasses and beat until well-incorporated.
  5. Sift the dry ingredients, and add to the mixture. On low speed, mix until it all just comes together.
  6. Line a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with plastic wrap, so that some hangs over the outsides. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Pack it tightly, and
    try to make the top as level as possible. Cover the dough with the plastic overhangs.
  7. Freeze until very firm, preferably overnight.
  8. Unwrap and remove dough from the pan. Slice brick into thin slices, no more than 1/8″.
  9. Place on a parchment-lined sheetpan and bake at 350 degrees until the edges turn dark brown, about 12 minutes.


  • The dough gets soft quickly, so work fast.
  • Because the cookies are so thin, there’s a fine line between underbaked and burned. Keep an eye on them. And actually I think they taste best when they’re very slightly burned on the edges. But some people like them cooked only lightly, so they are chewy. YMMV.
  • Regarding the smoothing of the dough in the loaf pan: Once the dough is covered with plastic wrap, take another loaf pan, of the same size, and use it to press the dough flat. You’ll have to move it around a bit to really get into the corners and sides, but it’s really easy.

Remember, now, that I haven’t actually eaten these yet. They have to chill overnight, and gingerbread isn’t one of the doughs that tastes good raw, so the only idea I have of how this will go is the fact that they smelled good. Raw. And, well, anything with that much cinnamon and ginger… smells great. I’ve made paper mache out of newsprint pulp, added a couple tablespoons of ground cinnamon and clove, and it smelled great. Even when it was rotting. But we’ll call these ‘promising’. I’ll post later with actual results.

Dec 3, 2007 (Update): These are the best fucking gingersnaps on the entire planet. I have a chunk frozen in the freezer nearly YEAR-ROUND, and make dozens at Christmastime.

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