A few weeks ago, a debate was struck up between myself and a friend on a highly sensitive topic. Cookies. That’s right.
I had perhaps crossed a line in making the bold statement: “It was the best cookie I’ve ever had.” I find cookies to be one of those things that people are very loyal about. Whether your favorite is a gooey chocolate chip, a Girl Scout Samoa, or a crisp shortbread, you’re likely to defend that cookie to any and all naysayers, while guarding the last few cookies in a secret stash for late night consumption. Doesn’t everyone do this?
It’s no secret that cookies have a special place in my heart. For years, cookie baking has been the quintessential mother-daughter bonding experience in my family (shopping holds a close second, obviously); cookies symbolize Christmas and Thanksgiving; a sweet edible way to dry my childhood tears and the most straightforward sign to show someone that you care. Given all that, I’ve baked a lot of cookies in my lifetime. A lot of really great, moist, crumbly, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth epic cookies that would disappear at family parties while my back was turned, or be the topic of conversation in mid-november, when the holiday season’s cookie plates were on the horizon. Yes, I’ve made raspberry bars, gingerbread men, chocolate chocolate chip and cherry, mint chip, candy cane toffee bars, rum balls, maple nut cups, roll-up cookies, and rugelach. And I thought I knew my favorite of them all – the sugary, doughy, just barely citrusy Lemon Drop cookies.
So when this cookie walked into my life one day and changed everything, it was something I had to talk about.
Don’t let the just-okay photo, which I hastily snapped with my iPhone as soon as I realized what a “big deal” this was, fool you. This Ginger Snap cookie from Ground Support in SoHo, which I stumbled across on a mid-afternoon coffee break one summer day, was so soft, so moist, so earthy and rich with mystical hints of clove and ginger, that I had no choice. It was, and is, the best cookie I’ve ever had.
This statement shocked and appalled my cookie-loving friend. He had grown up on the classic chocolate chip ooey-gooey cookies, and in his mind, nothing could top the sweet sugary dough encasing melting milk-chocolate morsels. The idea of a “Ginger Snap” cookie (though I explained that it didn’t really have much “snap” to it) being the best cookie anyone had ever eaten was so farfetched, it was outrageous.
But I wasn’t deterred. And a few days later, when I headed to Long Island for a brief staycation, I entered my mother’s kitchen – the cookie-baking-kitchen of my youth – on a mission to recreate the Ground Support Ginger cookie. Or rather, twenty four of them.
One sticky battle with a jar of molasses later, and they were done. I took the first bite, and was instantly disappointed. They just weren’t the same – they lacked something of the pillowy, slightly underdone moistness of the inspiration cookie I’d been so desperately craving. But then, I took another bite, because how can you not?
And then I saw things clearly – how the cloves broke through the sugar and cinnamon to give a suggestion of Autumn, of richness, that just-can’t-put-your-finger-on-it quality that bakers strive for. The molasses took a traditional ginger snap, and made it chewy and soft and unique, providing a slightly more elevated flavor profile than your Grandmother’s ginger cookie. And when the cookies were taste tested by a jury of other cookie experts (i.e., my family), they were frankly blow away, throwing out statements equally strong as my original claim, like “best cookie you’ve ever made,” and “if we sold these, we’d be rich!”
But because I know how important these cookies are, despite their chocolate chip free make-up, I thought it best to share them rather than sell them. Plus, what better way to celebrate the start of the fall season than with a cookie that celebrates the flavors of Autumn.
Soft Ginger Cookies
Makes 24 – Adapted from All-Recipes.com
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup robust molasses
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.