One should always be careful what one writes about on one’s blog, for one never knows what hungry demons one might unleash as one mulls over edible memories from one’s past.
After I wrote about shortbread last week and listed some of the things we liked to buy at Marks & Spencer’s, I could not get their stem ginger biscuits out of my mind. These cookies were tough little things to bite into, but they crumbled in your mouth and ignited such a delicious blaze of ginger flavor that they were plenty worth having a dental brace or two come loose in the process.
Unable to find a copycat recipe or even a list of ingredients to replicate the original, I just improvised on the theme and, putting an extraordinary amount of faith in my baking instincts, assembled a cookie dough using both fresh and crystallized ginger for flavor, unrefined cane sugar and cane syrup for sweetness, and rolled spelt for a nicely raggedy texture.
To say that I was pleased with the results of my tinkering would be a bit of an understatement, and this was all in all a very good thing since I accidently produced three dozen cookies — much more than I usually make at once. Lightly chewy in the center and crisp around the edges when fresh out of the oven, they crisped up further, just as I’d hoped they would, in the tin box I left them in.
This makes them ideal companions to a cup of tea (dunk dunk), and they were quite well received when I served them with a pear compote at the end our very fall-oriented dinner party the next evening, after a main course of roasted duckling (baked à la Poulet de Muriel, but with an orange instead of a lemon), glazed carrots, and brise de châtaigne.
- 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) butter (I use demi-sel butter; if you prefer to use unsalted, add a fat pinch of fleur de sel or kosher salt)
- 180 grams (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) unrefined cane sugar
- 1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger (about 20 grams)
- 1 egg
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) cane syrup (substitute black treacle, golden syrup, mild-flavored molasses, or honey)
- 200 grams (1 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
- 100 grams (1 cup) rolled spelt (not pre-cooked; flocons d'épeautre in French; substitute any other kind of old-fashioned rolled grain, such as rolled oats)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 80 grams candied ginger, diced finely (about 1/3 cup when diced)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cream together the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Peel the fresh ginger and grate it finely over the bowl. Add the egg and cane syrup, and mix thoroughly.
- In a medium mixing-bowl, toss together the flour, spelt, baking soda, and candied ginger. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. The dough will be soft. (You can prepare it up to a day in advance: cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
- Scoop out portions of dough (about the size of an unshelled walnut), shape roughly into a ball with two spoons, and plop onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving a 5-centimeter (2-inch) margin between them; the cookies will spread as they bake.
- Slip into the oven and bake for 12 minutes, until set but not too dark around the edges. Let rest for 40 seconds, lift from the baking sheet with a thin spatula, and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
This post was first published in November 2006 and updated in July 2016.