Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and unlike Christmas, I don’t have to worry about finding the perfect present for anyone. Without the pressure of romance, or the lack thereof, it’s much less stressful than Valentine’s Day. For Thanksgiving, all I have to do is bake a lot of desserts: apple pie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and my favorite, gingersnaps.
For me, baking desserts is a lot of fun, relaxing, even. On Thanksgiving, our kitchen tends to be full of people and food. My family tries to make baked squash, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, green bean casserole, peas sprinkled with mint, dilled carrots and a giant stuffed turkey, all at the same time. Since I’m in charge of the sweeter things, I can make them a day before, when the kitchen is blessedly empty except for me.
I know pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple for many people. Apple pie, too, shows up on many tables, including mine, and cheesecake is a classic. For me, though, it’s all about the lowly, often overlooked gingersnap.
I’m not talking about the flat, crispy gingersnaps you can find in a box from the grocery store, nor the gingerbread men that inhabit gingerbread houses. Gingersnaps should be moist, spicy, delicious cookies. They should be gone in three bites. Gingersnaps should hold the snap of autumn and the warmth of a fireplace in winter.
Unlike chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie dough, the dough for gingersnaps isn’t particularly appetizing. It can be a little tough to work with, and the spices have an untamed flavor before baking. Please keep in mind that raw eggs can carry viruses like salmonella if you try any kind of batter! I am not advocating eating raw cookie dough here. The snap in gingersnap comes from the mix of strong flavors and spices: molasses, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves tend to show up in most recipes.
When all the ingredients are mixed in and I roll the dough into one-inch balls, my hands come away gummy with gingersnap residue. This is a bit of a nuisance, but when those one-inch balls come out of the oven, they are far more appealing, just big enough to be more than a bite, but not a huge cookie. I never feel bad about eating more than one. The problem is finding them so delicious that I sometimes eat a dozen…and then maybe I’ll start feeling like I should consider a more balanced diet.
I’m looking forward to celebrating this food-centric holiday. Once everyone is, as my father says,
“Sufficiently surrensified,” and full of turkey, casserole and mashed potatoes, there will be a pause while everyone sighs happily and concentrates on digesting for a couple minutes. Then, they turn to the dessert table for the last taste of Thanksgiving.
I like to load the table with as much deliciousness as possible. It takes a little time to make pies, cakes, and cookies, but it’s worth it. This Thanksgiving, I’ll be making gingersnaps the night before. Hopefully enough of them will last through Turkey Day to share them.
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
¼ cup molasses
2 ¼ cup flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream together butter and sugars. Add molasses and egg. Stir in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Dough should be fairly stiff, but if it’s not, refrigerate for an hour.
Roll dough into 1” balls. You can roll them in granulated sugar for an outer coating of sweetness.
Bake until cookies are just baked through, about 10-12 minutes.
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