When I lived in San Francisco, I used to stop at Whole Foods occasionally and frequent the salad bar. Because I’m a big fan of cookies, I’d usually grab a cookie for dessert. It seemed like a sensible solution, at least to me. One day I noticed big, cushy-looking gingersnaps amongst all the other cookies, and picked one out. After finishing my salad, I took the cookie out of the slender brown bag and took a bite.
The cookie was spicy, yet soft, but with a good, satisfying chew. It was incredible. And to top it all off, it was non-fat. I’m not one of those people that dances around the “fat is good!…fat is flavor!” flagpole, but I don’t shy away from it either.
And anyone who says “fat is good” obviously isn’t aware that I’m going to the beach next month and even though our group has agreed on a “no photo” policy of shooting anyone below the neck, I’m not an entirely trusting person. And after being wrapped up all winter, who knows what’s lurking under all these layers of clothing? I shudder to think.
But the reality is, I didn’t particularly care if they were fat-free or not—I wanted a recipe.
Unfortunately, I doubt Whole Foods is as generous as some of us around here about handing out recipes, so I made a few attempts at them. The results? Let’s just say they were less-than-stellar.
Fast forward to ten years later, when I saw Adam’s post about The Barefoot Contessa’s Ultimate Ginger Cookies, I noticed they were remarkably similar-looking to those non-fat Gingersnaps. After checking out the recipe, being a relentless tinker-er in the kitchen, I tried lots of variations, omitting any and all traces of fat and tweaking a few things here and there.
I tried quite a few different variations, like light versus dark brown sugar (no contest—dark rocked) and using plain applesauce, or taking the time to cook it down to a paste (reducing it to a paste adds another step, but makes a denser, chewier cookie), so I made that an option.
If you live somewhere where molasses is unavailable, check health food stores, which in France, keep it in stock. Folks elsewhere can use treacle.
This dough is a bit tricky to shape into balls, so it should be very well-chilled before baking them off. If you can, make the batter a few hours or the day before you plan to use it. I found it easiest to scoop up mounds with an ice cream scoop and plop them right into a bed of sugar. Once they were all formed, I got my hands in there, coating them with plenty of cinnamon sugar, and formed each one into a rough ball. Not to worry: they don’t need to be museum pieces and will spread into nearly-perfect circles once baked.
Because I did so much futzing and testing, I had way too many gingersnaps lying around. So I pulled out a tub of Lemon-Candied Ginger Ice Cream lurking in my freezer and filled a few cookies, just for the heck of it. I wasn’t planning on eating one right away, but I couldn’t help myself and took a bite.
I just want to say, not the brag—this was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. I have two left in the freezer, although the ice cream tips them decidedly into the “fat is good!” category. The good news is that this means these cookies have the possibility to please absolutely everyone.
My work here is now done.
Makes twenty to twenty-two cookies
Inspired by a recipe by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.
The name ginger-snaps may lead one to think these are crispy, but they’re not. I’m not sure if true gingersnaps necessarily have to be crispy, so I’ll leave that to cookie researchers. A job which I’d be happy to apply for, in case you hear of any openings. If you like thicker, denser cookies, cook 1/2 cup (150g) applesauce down to 1/4 cup (75g), as shown in the picture above, or use apple baby food.
Because these are meant to be soft cookies, watch them like a hawk during the final moments of baking. Since all ovens are different, take them out just when they feel like they’re starting to set and feel just slightly firm in the center, which you can tell by touching one gently with your finger.
- 1 cup, packed (180g) dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (75g) applesauce
- 1/3 cup (100g) molasses (preferably mild-flavored)
- 2 1/4 cups (315g) flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (50g) finely-chopped candied ginger
additional sugar (about 1/2 cup, 100g) mixed with a big pinch of cinnamon for rolling the cookies
1. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the brown sugar, applesauce, and molasses for five minutes at medium speed, with the paddle attachment.
2. Meanwhile sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.
3. After five minutes, stop the mixer, scrape down the sides, and add the egg whites. Beat another minute.
4. With the mixer at its lowest speed, add the dry ingredients until completely incorporated, and mix on medium for one minute more.
5. Stir in the chopped candied ginger. Chill the batter very well.
6. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
8. Pour some cinnamon-scented granulated sugar in a shallow baking dish. Scoop the cookies into heaping tablespoon-sized balls (about the size of an unshelled walnut) and plunk them down into the sugar.
Afterward, use your hands to form the dough into sugar-coated balls: don’t be shy with the sugar either. It not only helps to shape the sticky dough, but makes a lovely crust for the finished cookies.
9. Put the cookie mounds evenly-spaced on the two baking sheets, leaving room (at least 3-inches, 8cm) between them to spread.
10. Bake for 13 minutes, or until the cookies feel just barely set in the center. Remove from oven and cool.
Variation: Next time I’m going to try smearing the tops with lemon glaze in the future, mixing 2 cups of powdered sugar with a scant tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, stirring and adding more lemon juice, just until it becomes spreadable, but still very thick.
Storage: You can keep the cookies in an airtight container for up to five days. The batter can be chilled for a week, or frozen, for up to two months, well-wrapped.