When people drop by unexpectedly, I like to offer them tea or coffee (or something alcoholic, if we're in the mood), along with something sweet that I've baked. It could be a cake or a tart but, more often, it's cookies. I keep various types of dough in my fridge and when I need something quick, I just have to shape it (or slice it) and bake it.
These gingersnaps have a double dose of ginger: powdered and crystallised - so are quite spicy. You can bake all the dough at once because the cookies keep well if stored in an airtight container.
Mixing the dough is straightforward, but the difficult parts come at the beginning and end - first, when finely chopping the candied ginger (you need to use a lightly oiled knife as a food processor won't work), and later, because the dough is dark, it's hard to tell if the cookies are fully baked. Fortunately, if the cookies are undercooked (they won't be crisp when they're cool), you can just put them back in the oven, with no harm done (that's not true with other types of cookie dough).
Buy crystallised ginger - the type coated in sugar, not in syrup (which is too wet).
You'll need a reusable piping bag to pipe out the dough; a disposable bag won't work because it's too flimsy.
The gingersnaps should be made no larger than 2.5cm in diameter.
125 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened
125 grams soft brown sugar
7 grams ground ginger
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
85 grams molasses
145 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
60 grams candied ginger
Cooking oil or pan coating, as needed
Very lightly oil a knife by dipping a paper towel in oil then rubbing it on the blade (or spray it lightly with pan coating). Very finely chop the candied ginger, oiling (or spraying) the blade as needed.
Use an electric mixer to beat the butter with the sugar, ground ginger, baking powder and salt until light and fluffy. Whisk the egg with the vanilla extract, add it to the butter mixture and stir it in. Mix in the molasses then scrape the bowl and beaters. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated, then stir in the candied ginger. Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing by hand until the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip that's about 1cm in diameter. Line cookie trays with baking paper (or a silicon baking mat). Pipe the dough into 1.5cm circles, leaving space between them so they have room to spread, and bake at 180 degrees. After about seven minutes, when the surface of the cookies starts to set, flatten them: using a pancake turner or metal spatula, whack the gingersnaps so they're very thin (if the dough sticks to the spatula, let them bake a little longer before trying again). Bake the gingersnaps until they're fragrant and firm, then let them cool. Break a gingersnap in two, and if it's not completely crisp, put the cookies back in the oven and bake for about two more minutes. Let the gingersnaps cool completely before storing them in an airtight container. If they soften, crisp them up by baking at 180 degrees for a minute or two, then cool.
Chocolate cinnamon cookies
140 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened
200 grams granulated sugar, plus extra for coating the cookies
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
28 grams cocoa powder, sifted
1 egg yolk
¾ tsp vanilla extract
170 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
Use an electric mixer to beat the butter with the sugar, salt and cinnamon until light and fluffy. Mix in the cocoa powder, then the egg and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing by hand.
Divide the dough into two parts and shape each one into a log that is about 2cm in diameter, packing it tightly so it's solid, with no air holes. Wrap the logs in parchment paper and twist the ends, then wrap in cling-film. Refrigerate the dough.
Whenever you want cookies, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Take a log from the fridge, unwrap the dough, then very lightly brush the outside with water. Roll it in granulated sugar to coat the entire log then cut it into about 5mm-thick slices. Lay the slices on a tray that's been lined with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies are fragrant and firm. Cool them slightly before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
These are not cookies - they're miniature cakes - but I'm sure your guests won't put up a fuss about the difference when you serve the financiers.
The mixture stores well; I divide it between two small containers and freeze one, keeping the other in the fridge to bake within a couple of weeks. You don't need to bake the batter in the traditional rectangular financier moulds; you can use one-bite tart pans of any shape.
220 grams unsalted butter
60 grams whole hazelnuts
180 grams granulated sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
60 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
160 grams egg whites
Put the butter in a saucepan and set it over a medium fire until almost melted. Decrease the heat then lay a paper towel over the pan. Hold the paper towel in place by covering the pan partially with the lid. The paper towel catches the splatters as the butter cooks; make sure the paper towel is far enough from the flame. Cook the butter until it smells nutty and the butter solids are a medium brown. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Put the hazelnuts on a small tray and bake them for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. When they're cool enough to handle, roll the nuts between the palms of your hands to loosen the skins. Discard the skins and put the nuts in a food processor. Add the sugar and salt and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and process until thoroughly combined. With the food processor motor running, pour in the butter (leaving behind most of the solids in the pan), then the vanilla and the egg white.
Divide the mixture between one or two containers, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Lightly spray the baking tins with pan coating. Scoop some of the mixture into each tin, filling it about three-quarters of the way. Bake at 220 degrees until they're fragrant and brown at the edges. Serve warm.
The mixture keeps in the fridge for about two weeks.
Styling: Nellie Ming Lee
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