These ginger cookies are killer, but you will need to endure my story to get to the recipe, so sayeth my husband!
During a recent trip to visit family in Rhode Island, I took a detour and drove to my childhood home in Massachusetts. An hour later, I was sitting in the kitchen of a woman I had never met, eating the most delicious, chewy on the inside, crackly on the outside, flavor-FULL ginger cookie.
The welcoming woman’s name was Joan Sapir, and our room was once the kitchen of my aunt’s bustling summer house. This kitchen was a happening place when I was a kid, and I gathered from my brief visit with Joan it continues to be.
Like for many of us, when we decide to visit the place where we grew up, I was driven by an ache for that which was familiar — my childhood home, my beautiful mother,
my grandmother who lived down the road,
the beach community where sunbathing mothers sat on the jetty in aluminum foldup chairs knitting wool sweaters designed by local guru PS Straker, occasionally stopping to do mom things like rebait a child’s drop line. I can see my mom knitting my pink Candide cabled crewneck sweater– apparently, the same pattern my friend Suzy’s mom knit for her.
For old times’ sake, I walked the well-worn path around our hamlet, affectionately known as the “DONUT.” I was doing just that when I met Joan in front of her house. She said, Hello, and that was all the prompting I needed to tell her my childhood life story and how her house was once my second home. What could she do but invite me in? When I walked in and saw the narrow steps leading to the upstairs bedrooms, my eyes welled up. How often had my cousins and I run up and down those stairs?
After a lovely visit with Joan and a few more impromptu visits with former neighbors (Nina, Suzy, and Erin), I drove home. My heart was full; how affirming is it to be remembered and welcomed by old friends fifty years later? Crazy as it may sound, even the cottages, whose gabled roofs my brothers and I routinely climbed when the summer folk left, seemed to wink as I walked by.
The Cookie Recipe
Well, that is the story behind this ginger cookie. It is as much a story about the power of radical hospitality and returning to one’s roots as it is about a cookie
A few notes about the ingredients:
Molasses and Sorghum Syrup
You can use molasses or sorghum in this recipe. I tested both, plus blackstrap molasses, a medicinal-tasting syrup many cooks say not to use for baking. They were all good. A little research showed that three cycles of boiling and crystallization of sugar beets or cane are required to make refined sugar. With each stage of processing, more sugar is extracted and the molasses, a byproduct of sugar production, becomes a little less sweet. Regular molasses has been through two extractions and blackstrap has been through three, making it more minerally dense.
Sorghum syrup, on the other hand, is made by boiling down juice extracted from sorghum cane. It has an earthy taste and is delicious on biscuits. Check out Raising Sorghum Cane to Make Sorghum Syrup to learn how it is made. I have a friendly relationship with Kentucky farmers who grow, harvest, and cook sorghum. I prefer it to molasses and substitute it cup for cup.
I weigh flour for consistent baking results. Place a bowl on a kitchen scale, zero out the bowl’s weight, and pour in flour until the scale reads 1 pound, 6 ounces. It’s easy peasy.
Sifting Dry Ingredients Together
In the old days (when I was a kid), cooks used a mechanical sifter to mix dry ingredients. You don’t see sifters much anymore; nowadays, cooks place dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together.
Portioning out the Dough
Bakeries use cookie scoops to portion dough to achieve consistent baking results. I once took a deep dive into the world of cookie scoops and learned that each scoop has a tiny number engraved on it that tells a baker how many cookies they will get from one quart of dough (or of ice cream, their initial intended use). Here’s a link: Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure. Who knew?
The cookies are topped with coarse-grained sugar, giving them a beautiful finish. Joan introduced me to King Arthur’s Sparkling White Sugar. It’s a game changer for providing cookies that have that bakery look. The crystals do not dissolve while cooking. An alternative is turbinado or plain sugar.
Yield: 4 dozen, 3-inch cookies
The recipe I have written is a doubled version of Joan’s. The cookies have a long shelf life, freeze well, and are happily received as gifts; it makes sense to double it and only mess up the kitchen once.
½ cup coarse-grained sugar
5 cups (22 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1½ cups (3 sticks) butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup sorghum or unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350º.
Use 3 ungreased cookie sheets.
Place the ½ cup of coarse-grained sugar for sprinkles in a shallow bowl and set aside.
Mix flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium bowl. Use a whisk to thoroughly mix. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Be sure to pause and scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula.
Add sorghum (or molasses) and eggs. Beat until well-blended, about one minute.
Add flour mixture. Mix slowly until white flour streaks disappear, about 30 seconds. At this point, you could cover dough and put in fridge and bake later.
Portion dough using a #40 cookie scoop, about a heaping teaspoon. Each 3-inch cookie weighs ~1 ounce. For ease, I portion out all the dough at once and then roll each into smooth balls.
Dunk each ball’s top half into the sugar bowl and arrange on a cookie sheet about 2-inches apart.
Bake in a preheated oven until cookies are golden, have puffed up, cracked on top, and started to deflate; about 12-15 minutes. You may have to fool around with the cooking time. Reposition pans in oven halfway through cooking. Do not overbake. Remove from oven, let stand for two minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. I think the cookies taste best a few hours after baking.
Related Posts from Bay View Neighbors:
My aunt, who lived in Joan’s house, is famous for Auntie’s Italian Fried Cauliflower.
Another of my aunts from Bay View makes this delicious entrée, Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers.
My cousin is famous for Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips.
Erin McHugh, author of Pickleball, is Life, is featured in this Thanksgiving favorite, Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie.
My husband, The Biscuit King, is famous for his step-by-step biscuit-making recipe the results of which are best slathered in butter and sorghum.
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38 thoughts on “Joan’s Chewy-Delicious Ginger Cookies”
Love love love your posts! What a beautiful story….❤️❤️❤️
Question: do you ever jot down weights for the other ingredients – to share with those of us who also only measure with a scale? (In metric!)
Joan!! Great to hear from you. Hyacinth was just here and helped edit this! Actually, flour is the only ingredient I weigh and it’s solely to get consistent baking results. I’d love to hear what you are up to. Are you still baking?
Judy always love your post! Thanks for blessing my life with teaching me. My continued favorite pastimes knitting and another passion baking and cooking!
Thank you, Deb. I am grateful that you read the blog and I always look forward to hearing from you.
Judy, I loved your story, and I also admire your energy! Also, I was interested in the additional recipes. What a great family life you had.
Thank you. It had its hardships, too, Melinda, but it was a joy to grow up in that beautiful area.
Many thanks Judy for such a joyful read on such a cold miserable morning my day is brightened and ready to bake Sandra
Thanks, Sandra!! have a great dat.
Iâm sitting in my house in Birchfield, next to your Bay View, and wishing I could chat. I love the posts and recipes so keep it up. The Eastern Surgical is history and my husband, Bob Osteen, died unexpectedly in July. But it would be great to see you- and Kelly -next time you are in this neighborhood. Please let me know.
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Carolyn!! I’m so very sorry to hear about Bob. What a distionquished and nice man he was.
I forgot you had a house in Birchfield and Yes, I would love to visit. I grew up with Tish Walker and spent a good deal of time in her house and across the street running through the cornfields. Please send me contact cards for both you and Phyllis.
When I was in middle school, we used to walk to Hobby Club at the Friends Meeting House on Friday nights. We would walk from Bay View, cut through to Birchfield, pick up Tish and then others along the way as we walked down Smith Neck. Good times.
Thanks for writing, Carolyn and I’m sorry for your loss. xoJudy
Loved hearing from you. Iâll send both addresses. What email address should I use for you? Carolyn
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Can hardly wait to try the Ginger Cookies. I make a similar recipe given to my mother when we were children by Mrs. Morrison who was the downstairs (children’s section) librarian at Southworth Library on Elm Street. Our family grew up in Padanaram. I think you may know my sister Peggy Harkins.
Oh, WOW! You are Peggy’s sister?! She was my bestie in 8th grade. I remember your house and mom. I am trying to remember Mrs. Morrison. I loved that library. We were all fortunate to have grown up in the village. Thank you for writing!
Yes, we were lucky to grow up there. I am the oldest of the 4 sisters and have lived in San Francisco since 1973. We have a summer cottage in Nonquitt not far from Erin McHugh’s on Smith Neck Road. We were friends as children and now as adults too.
Oh, two wonderful places to live. I haven’t been to Nonquit in forever. I would love to revisit.
I was taking the back roads back to RI when I spied Erin checking her mailbox on Smith Neck. I stopped and stayed for more cookies and a long visit with her. Like I said, it was an amazing afternoon.
Oops. Librarian was Dorothy MARTIN not Morrison.
Hello from Boston,
Small, small world it is. In 1966 Gordon and I sailed from Grenada to St Thomas with Penny Straker and her then boyfriend. She became a good friend although I have lost touch with her in recent years. Do you know her whereabouts?
Miss seeing you and Kelly, Love, Phyllis
Phyllis!! Love hearing from you- ALWAYS! I can’t believe you know Penny. I don’t know what became of her. It was her mother, Janice, who always helped me with dropped stitches. My mother worked, so when I had a knitting mistake, I would get on my bike and ride to Padanaram for her to fix it.
Meanwhile. A friend of mine here in Nashville said she played bridge with you last week. That was fun to hear. I miss you and your feisty yet elegant ways. If I am in your town, I will call you. xoxo
What a beautiful and touching post as well as a terrific recipe. I have similar feelings every time I visit Glen Leven Farm where my grandparents lived when I was growing up and where the offices of The Land Trust for Tennessee are now located. As many times as I have been there over the past few years, I never fail to feel the tugs at my heart as I relive memories of so many happy childhood experiences there. Thank you, Judy. So glad to be signed up for this blog.
Thank you so much, Ophelia. I knew a relative of yours owned Glen Leven Farm. I did not know it was your grandparents! How cool is that. One day, will you give me a personal tour? I would LOVE that and so would Kelly. I’ll pack a lunch!
These look amazing. Thanks for sharing
Brenda Reed firstname.lastname@example.org c. 615 337-1404 h. 615 460-0109
Thank you for sharing! Love the story and can’t wait to make cookies to share for Christmas‼️
JEWELRY ASSOCIATE 307.732.5612 Office 615.828.8089 Cell http://www.bellecose.com
Wait until Christmas? Make them today, Theresa! They freeze well. I meant to say, you can throw in some minced crystalized ginger. if you are in the mood
Love ginger any way I can get it! When I was in Chile last year, I was served fresh lemonade with grated ginger.. I now keep grated ginger in lemon juice in my fridge and can make for myself😊 it’s also good in hot tea!
Sounds amazing. I will try. I love ginger, too!
Judy have you ever frozen the raw dough balls & baked from frozen? Can’t wait to try these!
Ashley, funny you should ask. I tried that. I scooped the dough into balls and placed them in the freezer. When I took them out I defrosted them, rolled them in the sugar, and baked them. They tasted good, but they lacked the crackly beautiful texture that makes these special, so I didn’t add that step to the post.
Thanks, Judy! I knew you would know.
Judy ! Great recipe and blogpost, and I’ll definitely add these cookies to my collection of ginger and molasses cookies — but what i loved the most was seeing the photos, especially the one with your brothers who look SO MUCH like your sons! PS so sad to have missed the chance to see Hyacinth! NEXT TIME.
Thank you, Mary. Did they remind you of your BV memories?! Hope you like the cookies. Hyacinth will be back Sunday night
Sunday night like TONIGHT?
Tuesday night before she heads back Wednesday
If I don’t get to see her PLEASE give her a hug from me!
Judy! Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you so much for the recipe! I had one similar, and, I can’t find it so this was super timely! My kids are coming for the holiday, so these will be a special dessert to “just have”. I made then this morning. The house smells wonderful. I did add a little twist. We REALLY like ginger, so I pulsed candied ginger in the food processor and added about 1/4 cup. I let you know how they turned out.
Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful holiday season! Happy baking, and please give my love to Jesse and his family.
Thank you again! I always look forward to your posts,
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Thank you, Barbara! I’m going to give that a try. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, as well!
These cookies are delicious!! The world’s top taste tester, Scott, totally agrees! Baking ginger snap cookies during a light falling snow….pretty perfect!!
Marci!! The nicest compliment ever! Thank you. I love to cook when it snows, too! BTW, I have a photo from many years ago that Cati and Markham sent of them making my Lily’s Red Velvet Cake recipe. They made cupcakes instead of cake and sent the most darling photo of the creation. I love them! Also, thank you for sending your friend a link to my blog. I’m honored. So appreciate, too. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours
. So glad to have you in the fam! xo