Crispy gingersnaps these are not – these chewy ginger-molasses cookies benefit not just from ground ginger from the spice cabinet but fresh and crystallized ginger.
The Food Network website has two ginger cookie recipes that come with fancy pedigrees: Ina Garten’s Ultimate Ginger Cookie and Paula Deen’s Ginger Cookie. This recipe is neither. The former calls for a whopping 1 1/4 cup of crystallized ginger, which makes little dollar signs dance in front of my eyes, while the latter – besides being from a woman who deliberately concealed her own diabetes while advising viewers to pile on the sugar and fat – includes 3/4 cup shortening and a mere 1 tsp. ginger in its ingredient list. I’ve never met a cookie recipe with shortening that couldn’t be made better with the substitution of butter. And a ginger cookie with a single teaspoon of ginger is hardly a ginger cookie at all! Neither recipe called for more than 1/3 cup of molasses, which seems to be the key to getting soft, chewy cookies instead of brittle gingersnaps. So I turned instead to this no-name recipe from the Food Network Kitchen. Think of it as eschewing Prada and Marc Jacobs for the Walmart store brand: it may not be as pretty, but it gets the job done.
My best cookie-baking tip is a pretty simple one: use parchment paper. It not only saves you from washing the baking sheets, but in my experience it helps the cookies come out even and smooth-edged. Greasing the sheets or
misting them with cooking spray seems to frequently cause “raggedy” or crispy edges (see photo). In a way, I guess you could say parchment paper is environmentally friendly. Yes, you’re using and tossing two big sheets of paper, which means cutting down trees. But you’re also saving water (and the energy to heat it) since you don’t have to hand-wash the baking sheets. Really, though, it comes down to my “lazy baker syndrome.” Oddly enough, though I love to bake, cookies frustrate me when they require endless cleanup and multiple rounds of cooking time. That’s why I either halve most cookie recipes – the oatmeal-raisin recipe on the inside of the Quaker Oats box makes 4 dozen, which means two rounds in the oven – or seek out recipes, like Smitten Kitchen’s oatmeal raisin half-recipe, which are written to produce only 2 dozen cookies. Plenty of people recommend baking just one sheet at a time, so that the air can circulate properly, but the taste doesn’t seem to suffer if I use both oven racks to bake two sheets at once. The cookies on the bottom rack tend to need a few more minutes in the oven – strange, considering they’re closer to the heating element, but perhaps not so strange considering that heat rises toward the top rack – but by the time I’ve turned out the cookies on the first sheet onto wire racks, the second is ready to come out of the oven.