Learning about food, photography, and writing. Sharing what I find.


Friday, January 22, 2010

A Family Classic (Gingersnaps)

Believe it or not, most of the baking in my childhood home was my father's doing. It's probably a combination of things:
  1. Decades of watching and smelling his Italian mother bake cookie after cookie.
  2. The example of a Scottish father who, for many years, made his living as a chef to the elite on The Cape (Cape Cod for you people who may have another cape you consider the cape).
  3. And, consequently, the ingrained sweet tooth he, to this day, just can't resist.
My father passed his skills and said "tooth" on to my middle sister, who continues to bake like it's her job—a rather apropos cliché, I do believe. I have had many a delicious baked-good prepared by my father and sister alike, a feat of which I am insanely jealous (sometimes they let me grease the pans).

My mother, on the other hand, didn't know what dessert was until she met my father (Perhaps a slight exaggeration and even less impressive when you know they met around the age of 14). For example, when she was little, she dreaded getting medicine in the nurse's office not because of the gagable taste, but because they drizzled it on a sugar cube for ease of ingestion. Even now, almost thirty-five years into a marriage to the Duke of Dessert, she only has about eight sweet items she enjoys. But still, in her defense, there were very few bakers to emulate on her side (Sorry, Tabor/Richards). Nonetheless, one of my absolute favorite cookies of all time, The Gingersnap, is a Richard/Tabor family classic that has been perfected and served by my mother to the delight of three generations.

Allow my mother to tell you the story:

"I figure I first made these about 30 years ago (at your age) for my Pop. They were his favorite cookie to dip into hot tea. True to his English roots, he drank tea all day. His first cup was in bed, brought to him by his adoring wife. (She used to set the cup on the nightstand and turn it so the handle was within easy reach.) The teakettle was always hot in the Richard house." -Dana, Mama

(Don't you just wish you were a fly on the wall during those simpler, more intentional times?)

It's not exactly a secret family recipe, but it is hard to find in print.

The first time I found out that these gems were from Joy of Cooking, I was a little amazed. I was excited, though, because I owned my very own copy! I went in search of the recipe and it wasn't there. In fact, I have looked in three other editions of Joy and haven't found this precise recipe in any of them. So, apparently Joy of Cooking, 1976 Edition is the only one worth owning (in my humble opinion).

Here they are: Gingersnaps (Joy of Cooking, 1976)

Preheat oven to 325º.

Cream together:

            ¾ cup butter
            2  cups sugar

Stir in:

            2 well beaten eggs
            ½ cup molasses (with a little extra drizzle for good measure)
            2 tsps. vinegar (Apple cider? White? You decide.)

Sift and add:

            3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
            1 ½ tsps. baking soda
            2 to 3 tsps. ginger (The more the better, in my view! Frontier makes an excellent line of spices and I especially love their ground ginger.)
            ½ tsp. cinnamon
            ¼ tsp. cloves

Mix ingredients until blended.  Form dough into ¾ inch balls. 

Baked on  a greased cookie sheet about 12 minutes (shorter for chewier, longer for snappier!). 

As the ball melts down during baking, the cookie develops the characteristic crinkled surface. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes and then transfer cookies directly onto cooling rack (from whence my husband will consume as many as he can before they cool entirely).

Isn't that just so delightfully simple? You won't be disappointed.


  1. those pictures are awwwwesome. delicious. tell me penn helps you take them-- like the molasses one? that cant be a one person job. im going to need to get steve more of an active participant in my blog i think.

  2. Actually, I did the molasses one by myself! It takes a bit of contortion and a tiny tensing of the core muscles. There was a little bit of shaking going on. Thank God for quick shutter speeds! Penn does help a lot, though. He has a fantastic eye for detail (hence, being a designer) and an unnatural love for raw batter in all forms (so he just can't stay away during the process!).

  3. Your gingersnaps look perfect!
    That edition of The Joy of Cooking also has a recipe for oatmeal cookies with grated orange rind. That's the other cookie I can bake.

  4. 1.) Mom, you made me laugh out loud! Until this darn blog, you can attest to the fact that my baking skills consisted of only one thing: Apple Crisp (The lazy man's apple dessert).
    2.) I'm going to have to try those oatmeal cookies next time I come home. Penn would LOVE them!

  5. My dad had a saying that we heard a lot around our house. With 5 kids (3 of which were girls) and ONE bathroom (no, not even a lavatory in the downstairs hall):

    "Let's hurry up in there! ...you are as slow as molasses in January!"

    It was probably awhile before you could even TAKE the shot.

  6. (Hmmm. Maybe I want my coffee served to me in bed every morning. With the handle turned. Must remember to mention to Bethany...)