I have a special recipe for you today.
These cookies are the epitome of “Christmas” for me. My family has made them every year for as long as I can remember…and with good reason.
My maternal great-grandmother first made these, and the recipe has since been passed down to three more generations. These ginger snaps are spicy and sweet with the most incredible texture. They are chewy on the inside, and the sugar crust on the outside gives them a great crunch.
They are THE BEST. And this is coming from someone who isn’t even nuts about gingerbread or ginger snaps in general. These are, hands down, my favorite Christmas cookie. It isn’t Christmas unless we have a batch of these ready to go.
These cookies conjur up many memories for me. My sisters and I would fight over who got to roll the dough in the sugar…EVERY.SINGLE.TIME…like, even when we were grown-ass adults! My mom always sampled the raw dough unapologetically…and several baked cookies shortly thereafter, too! My dad, who swears he doesn’t eat sweets, could not resist a plate of these after Christmas dinner. When I bite into one of these now, all these memories come rushing back.
Because this is such an old-school recipe, you will see ingredients like shortening and blackstrap molasses. Trust me, you do not want to stray from the recipe AT ALL.
I tried making these with butter and it was a horrible fail. Same outcome with regular molasses. I’m not sure what it is about those particular ingredients that makes them so necessary, but they just are. I’m not a master baker, but I have learned by trial and error that you don’t want to mess with the original recipe. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
You’ll also notice that some of the instructions are more casual due to the fact that this is an old fashioned recipe. For instance, the baking soda should be dissolved in “a little bit” of hot water. I know, I know. What the heck does that mean? For me, it’s roughly a tablespoon or two of water. I never measure and these never fail. So take comfort in that!
So, from my family to yours, enjoy these special holiday cookies this season. Maybe they’ll make it into your annual rotation and you can start developing new memories with your family.
Dibs on rolling the dough in sugar! No. Seriously.
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
¾ cup shortening
2¼ cup flour (add more if dough is too sticky to roll)
2 teaspoons baking soda, dissolved in a little hot water
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Additional sugar, for coating the cookies (about 1 cup)
Preheat the oven to 375°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together the sugar, molasses, and shortening until smooth in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg and dissolved baking soda.
Combine the flour, spices, and salt in another bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir until well combined. The dough should be shiny and easily hold together when pinched between your fingers. If the dough is too soft to hold together, refrigerate it for 15 minutes.
Place the additional sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and roll to coat in sugar.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes. The cookies should look puffy and undercooked when removed from oven. As they cool, they will harden and crack slightly. Do not overbake these! They stay soft and chewy because of the shorter baking time.
This is an old-fashioned recipe. The shortening is key. Butter will not work as a substitute in this recipe – believe me, I’ve tried!
We always mixed this by hand with a whisk/spatula, and that is what works. If you try this using a hand-held or stand mixer, please let me know how it turns out.