Food Friday: Christmas Cookies


I have started my annual rite of cookie baking. I baked a couple of batches of gingersnaps on Sunday, so I could tuck a little love in the Christmas boxes we mail. Gingersnaps are sturdy enough to be mailed, and will still taste fine even if they get mashed. I am always reluctant to eat pretty cookies – ones that have been fussed over with finely piped, royal icing snowflake patterns and carefully centered, inedible silver dragees. Give me a misshapen sugar cookie, dripping with kid-schmeared sugar icing and a handful of sprinkles any day, because I’ll remember the joy of Christmas baking alongside my mother and brother.

Gingersnaps are among the good holiday smells that propel me back through time to my mother’s kitchen. When I wore a ruffled apron over my Fair Isle sweater, and stood on the red wood stepping stool, so I could get right into the thick of the baking. I am sure I was very helpful.

Gingersnaps are among the most versatile of cookies. They taste deelish warm from the oven, cold in a lunch bag, and not too bad when they are stale. Even the gingersnaps that can be bought in a sack at the grocery store are pretty good, in a pinch. But these are so easy, and so kid-friendly, that you should just bake some yourself. These are simple, round and wholesome. Well, except for the white sugar, but not everything can be perfect in every way.

Gingersnap Cookies:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (pack it into the measuring cup)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses (oil the measuring cup first, or spray a little Pam – otherwise you will be washing that cup forever, when you could be conducting cookie taste tests)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I was SHOCKED to see how expensive ground cloves are – $7! I used a half teaspoon of ground allspice and things tasted just fine.)

For dusting the cookies:
1 cup granulated white sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, I use an electric mixer. Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until well-mixed. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Cover the bowl with Saran Wrap and chill it in the fridge for about half an hour, until it is firm.

Fill a little dish with the cup (or thereabouts) of granulated sugar. When the dough is nice and chilly, roll it into 1-inch balls. Then drop and roll the balls of dough in the sugar, this is the best point for expecting kid interaction and assistance. Put the dough balls on the baking sheets, and use a small flat-bottomed glass to flatten the cookies. Sometimes you will need to dip the glass back into the sugar to get the right amount of crunchy, sugary goodness. Do not squash them too thin, or the cookies will get too dark and brittle. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. You can also use a small ice cream scoop, instead of making the balls by hand, but really, where is the fun in that?

These gingersnaps from Smitten Kitchen are a little spicier because she adds pepper. Go for it. But all I want to do is remember the warm kitchen, the silly apron and to spend a couple of hours with Mom.

At Garden & Gun Magazine, where everything is stylish and hip, there is a recipe for molasses cookies, which is very similar to my mother’s gingersnaps. You be the judge:

Our friends at Food52 have lots of swell Christmas cookie ideas. I like a nice, cookie cutter Christmas cookie. And we have timed this just right. Amanda suggests that we bake these cookies well in advance, so they will be perfect to leave out for You Know Who and his eight tiny sidekicks:

The Center for Disease Control has issued its annual doom and gloom warning about eating raw cookie dough. I am passing it along to you in a responsible fashion:

“To each other, we were as normal and nice as the smell of bread. We were just a family. In a family even exaggerations make perfect sense. “
-John Irving

About Jean Sanders

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