Published November 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
What’s the secret to gingersnaps that combine bold spice flavor and real snap? To begin with, there’s getting rid of all that moisture.
Most gingersnap recipes don’t live up to their name. Once you get past their brittle edges, the cookies turn soft and chewy. And they always fall short on flavor, lacking sufficiently bold notes of ginger and spice.
We wanted freshly baked gingersnaps with a crackly top and a texture to rival the store-bought kind, but with all-natural ginger flavor and lingering heat.
The biggest obstacle in achieving our gingersnaps’ signature snap was too much moisture. To scale it down, we tweaked two of our recipe’s star ingredients: brown sugar and butter. Cutting back on the brown sugar resulted in cookies noticeably drier and crunchier and also allowed the ginger flavor to move to the fore. Browning the butter eliminated some of its water while keeping its fat (and introduced rich, nutty flavor). We also extended the overall baking time, which allowed the cookies to gradually (and fully) dry out without burning. And we transferred them to a wire rack immediately after baking, which allowed air to circulate and steam to escape from their undersides.
For our cookies’ crackly tops, we used enough baking soda to cause the cookies to rise dramatically but then collapse, leaving attractive fissures on their surface. This excess of leavener also had other positive effects: better browning (and therefore an even richer taste) and cookies that were crispier, since the cracks in the dough were allowing more moisture to escape.
There was just one glitch. When we baked two sheets at once, only the cookies on the upper rack developed a uniformly crackled top, while those on the lower rack sported smoother facades (plus less crispness). The solution proved as simple as staggering the baking: We popped one tray onto the upper rack until fissures formed, moved it to the lower rack to finish baking, and then placed the second sheet of cookies on the upper rack.
With the texture and appearance of our gingersnaps on point, we focused on punching up their mild flavor. We doubled the amount of dried ginger and incorporated cinnamon, cloves, and freshly grated ginger. For yet another layer of heat, we used a combination of cayenne and black pepper, which we bloomed in the browned butter. As a finishing touch, we rolled the balls of dough in granulated sugar before baking to provide a sweet exterior foil to the spicy interiors.list of recipes