Grandma’s Gingersnap Holiday Cookies

My grandmother’s mother was a professional baker. She made my parent’s wedding cake, and her recipes have been used in our family cooking as long as I can remember. Every Christmas, my grandmother would bake a huge batch of cookies; sugar cookies with frosting, peanut butter cookies, chocolate drop cookies, and gingersnaps. I hated them as a kid. The gingersnaps, I mean. My dad LOVED them, which meant every year she made a full batch of them just for him. She had two recipes: soft and crispy. I don’t know if she got them from her mother, but in any case they’ve been baked in our family as long as I can recall. Every year. My grandmother is no longer with us, but her recipes are. And this year, I thought I’d send out a special Thank You Christmas card to all the design firms and people who have recommended me, interviewed me, hired me, or even just looked at my work. In the card I included a homemade cookie, because I’m of a firm belief that nothing says thank you like homemade cookies. Well, the response has been great, and I’ve already had requests for the recipe. By the way, I must have been nuts as a child. These cookies are delicious, bursting with holiday spices and cooled with delicious vanilla icing. So without further ado, here we go. Thanks, Grandma!

Ingredients: Cookies
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup molasses (Her recipe calls for “green label”. The molasses I had at home happened to have a green label on it, so I suppose it was correct)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1.5 tbsp egg replacer whisked with 2 tbsp water until light, thick and frothy – should be almost as stiff as cappucino foam. She used an egg, but we’re vegan here.
4 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tsp salt (I used sea salt, as that’s all I have in the house)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Ingredients: Icing
3 tbsp egg replacer whisked with 4 tbsp water until light, thick and frothy – like cappucino foam. You may need a small hand blender for this but a small whisk works fine.
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 + cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1. Combine shortening, molasses and brown sugar into a sauce pan. Heat on low – medium until boiling, boil for 2 minutes. Don’t bring it up to medium or high, or the brown sugar will burn and make an icky taste. Remove from heat, cool to lukewarm or room temperature. Add beaten egg replacer and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
2. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and pepper. Add to molasses mix and blend well – it should be pretty thick.
3. Line an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with waxed paper, then press the dough into the dish, packing it in tightly. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or more.
4. Preheat oven to 350.
5. Divide the dough into 8 sections. Place a large sheet of waxed paper on a smooth, flat surface. Take out one section, place on the wax paper, then cover with another sheet of wax paper. Put the remaining dough in the fridge – you want it to be as cold as possible to roll out evenly and cut out cleanly. Roll out with a rolling pin until the dough is very thin, about 1/8 or 1/16 of an inch thick. Grab your favorite cookie cutter (I like to use a small 3″ tartlet tin upside-down to get pretty scalloped edges) and press it into the dough. Before lifting the cutter, trim away the excess. Remove the cookie and place it on a sheet of parchment paper on top of a baking sheet (this way you don’t have to grease the baking sheet – your clean up is minimal and your baking sheet never gets that baked-in grease grossness). Repeat cutting until there is no more room to press the cutter into. Wad up the scraps into a ball, then place it back in the fridge with the other dough sections. Repeat with the other 7 sections, THEN do the same with the dough scraps. The dough scraps get warmed up from rolling and trimming, and refrigerating them allows them to get firm and workable again.
6. Once your baking sheet is filled, bake the cookies at 350 for 10-15 minutes. It’s best to watch them every 5 minutes or so, then after 10 minutes watch them every minute to make sure the edges aren’t burning. When they’ve darkened a little (but aren’t burned), take them out and place the cookies on a cooling rack. Let them cool completely while you bake more batches. Be sure to replace the baking parchment every time you bake a batch.
7. Once the cookies are cool, make the icing. Beat the egg replacer mixture with the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Almond extract is also delicious; use 1/2 tsp. Slowly add in the sifted confectioner’s sugar until combined and smooth. Add more confectioner’s sugar if it needs to be thicker, more water if it needs to be thinner. You’re looking for a consistency kind of like a thick gravy. Too liquidy and the icing won’t set up correctly – too thick and you won’t be able to pipe it out of a frosting bag. I made it a bit too thick at first, then added water until it reached a good consistency that was workable. Scoop it into a frosting bag with the metal (or plastic) piping tip already in place. Squeeze out the air and curl it up from the open end to the tip, much like you would with a tube of toothpaste. Ice the cookies in the decoration you like – I started with snowflake patterns but got bored and went to writing cute messages to my husband.
8. Let the icing set on the cookies overnight. You can eat them right away, but if you’re looking for hard icing, it’ll need the evening to set up correctly. Enjoy!

One Response to “Grandma’s Gingersnap Holiday Cookies”

  1. As a recipient of one of these yummy cookies, I can vouch for this recipe – you will not be disappointed!

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment