Chez Panisse Gingersnaps Recipe

Chez Panisse Gingersnaps

Gin·ger·snap (noun) :
1. a thin brittle cookie, round or rectangular, sweetened with molasses and flavored with ginger (and optionally other spices). Close cousin: the speculoos from Flanders.
2. one of these viral recipes that occasionally spread like magic through our little world of food blogs!

And we have Renee [2010 update: she was the author of the now defunct blog "Feeding Dexygus Seconds"] to thank for this one. Renee had applied for a pastry cook position at the renowned Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. At the end of the tryout and interview, sensing she wouldn’t get the job, she decided to cut her losses and asked if she could have the recipe for the gingersnaps she had been served at the end of staff lunch. The interviewer (possibly Alice Waters herself?) obliged.

I love that story. It’s a great illustration that there is something to be gained from any situation, and it also goes to show that there is never any harm in asking for a recipe, however prestigious the owner. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to be touched by the story and tempted by the cookie: a dozen food bloggers subsequently baked these gingersnaps and posted about their success — each of their reports only heightening my desire to join the ranks of CPG fans.

The occasion finally arose last week, when a few of my cousins came over for a Sunday afternoon goûter. This was my first time baking with molasses, despite my having bought a jar of organic mélasse over six months ago — one of these purchases I sometimes make with the dim notion that some exciting recipe calls for it, then promptly forget about. Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar refining process, it is the thick syrup you get when you boil down the sugar cane juices to extract sugar. When carefully produced, molasses retain most of the sugar cane’s nutritional elements: minerals, iron, magnesium and calcium.

And since I seem to have so much interest in sugar and its healthy versions lately, allow me to share with you my favorite word for today: mellifluous, which my good friend Merriam-Webster defines as “having a smooth rich flow (a mellifluous voice)” or “filled with something (as honey) that sweetens”. End of vocable interlude, thank you for your attention.

This was also my first time baking gingersnaps (or eating homebaked ones for that matter), and I was suitably wowed. They had a deep and complex taste I attribute mostly to the use of molasses, a pleasant hint of petrolousness (Merriam-Webster has yet to learn about that one) wonderfully ignited by the spices’ heat. As for the texture it was just perfect, offering crispness to the bite, then tenderness to the chew.

Sadly, this texture didn’t survive a night in my lousy non-hermetic tin box and they had gone soft the next day. They still tasted great of course, but they had definitely lost the “snap” in gingersnap, and looked somewhat disconsolate and droopy. But the good people on the C&Z forums were able to offer advice and I trust this won’t happen again — in the meantime I froze the leftovers and plan on giving them a glorious new life sometime soon, possibly reincarnating them into a cheesecake crust.

Chez Panisse Gingersnaps

- 8 oz (220g) salted butter
- 1 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp (280g) sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract/paste
- 2 small eggs or 1 1/2 large eggs
- 1/3 C (114g) molasses
- 3 C (360g) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

(Yields about 70 cookies.)

Cream butter until soft. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat again. Add molasses and beat until well incorporated.

Sift together the dry ingredients and add into the mixture. Mix until it all just comes together. Line a 9″ x 5″ (22 x 12 cm) loaf pan with plastic wrap, so that some hangs over the sides. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan, pack it tightly, and try to make the top as level as possible. Cover the dough with the plastic overhangs. Freeze until very firm, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Remove dough from the pan and unwrap from one side. Slice the “brick” into very thin slices, no more than 1/10″ (2mm). Place the slices on the cookie sheet (give them a little room, they will expand) and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges turn brown to dark brown (depending on how cooked and crispy you like them). Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

[Recipe originally provided by Renee.]

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  • cheesy chilaquiles

    Clotilde,

    The best molasses tip I have is to rinse the inside of the jar cap and to wipe the jar rim with hot tap water to facilitate removal in the future. It’s worth the small amount of effort. A gummy lid can be very difficult to loosen.

    Be sure to save a few “snaps” for finishing the sauce on your next Sauerbraten. They thicken and flavor the cooking juices beautifully.

  • http://knifesedge.typepad.com/knifes_edgerestaurant_ran/ haddock

    I love gingersnaps. We serve them with ice cream and people often ask for additional cookies.

    Nice story about taking something away from a possibly negative situation.

  • corey

    Ahh the keeping of pastries strikes again…

  • http://seriouslygood.kdweeks.com/index.html Kevin

    Clotilde,

    In the Southeastern United States (The South) molasses has long been a primary sweetener. It’s most popular as a syrup on various griddle cakes, biscuits, and cornbread. But it also features prominently in desserts such as spice cake and older pie recipes.

    I like adding a dollop to mashed sweet potatoes or winter squash along with a dollop of rum (molasses and rum are perfect complements, both being made from sugar cane). You might also take a look at this dessert: http://seriouslygood.kdweeks.com/2004_11_01_seriouslygood_archive.html.

    Kevin

  • http://www.ingredientsleuth.blogspot.com Lyn

    I read the suggestions for keeping bakery fresh on your forum, but didn’t see this one. Hope it helps keep the snap in those gingery treats:

    Put a slice of bread into the container with the cookies. When the moisture inevitably finds its way into the container … some of it may even come out of the cookies themselves … it will be attracted to the bread as the first recipient (bread being, basically, a sponge).

    Hope it works as well for you as it does for me!

  • violet_heather

    I love gingersnaps for cheesecake crust! My dad is hugely into gingersnaps too, so I always have some leftover after the holidays that are hard as rocks…. into crumbs they go! I particularly like them for a lime or mango cheesecake…. the ginger compliments the fruit so beautifully.

  • a

    the bread would make them soft right away. unless you mean bread that has been totally dried out and is more dry than the cookies.

  • Janet

    I make something like these too – but they are called ginger crinkles. You chill the dough – not freeze. After you take the dough out of the refrigerator you roll it into small balls and roll them in sugar. When they bake, they flatten out and look all crinklely (hence the name).

  • del

    Clotilde,
    I Love anything gingery. My favorite is gingerbread, rich with molasses and fresh ginger. And, I love adding a touch of black pepper to give it a little extra zing!

  • Penny

    My daughter-in-law introduced me to a quick and delicious dessert with gingersnaps. Whip cream fairly stiff with sugar and vanilla to taste (or what ever flavouring you fancy)

    Taking a biscuit at a time, very quickly dip it into sweet fortified wine (before it crumbles) – sherry, port, muscadel or similar – ( this can be diluted with half milk if the alcohol will be too strong for some people) and with a dollop of cream start creating a structure biscuit by biscuit- a cylindrical “train”, individual little towers, layered in a dish – cover the whole with the balance of the cream – chill for a few hours to let the spicyness and ginger inpregnate the whole dish. Can be decorated with crystalised ginger, a dusting of cocoa, chocolate flakes or slivered almonds – but not neccessary. It’s basic, rich and the flavour of ginger absolutely makes it!

  • Joan

    ‘n while on the ginger theme, this quote from Giner Rogers is rather sweet: “My mother told me I was dancing before I was born. She could feel my toes tapping wildly inside her for months.”

    Is that not just gorgeous!

  • Chloe

    I made these and shared them with my mother, who said they tasted like speculoos (we’re Belgian). I agree – these cookies taste more ‘speculoos-like’ than many an actual speculoos recipe. If I make them again (it yields a HUGE amount of cookies, so we’re still eating through this batch), I might add a splash of cognac before baking to add more depth to the cookies and to make the speculoos flavour more pronounced.

  • Courtney

    I just read in another forum that another C&Zer (Donna) made these cookies but added fresh ginger and candied ginger. Did anyone find the original recipe not ginger-y enough? I like the idea of adding the cognac Chloe!

  • http://www.purplefoodie.com Shaheen {The Purple Foodie}

    Hey the link to Renee’s website doesn’t work. Do you have the updated link? Much thanks.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m guessing she stopped blogging at that address, but I don’t know if she picked up anywhere else. Thanks for pointing it out, I’ve updated the post.

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