Gingersnaps scream old fashioned with their use of warm spices and molasses. They are a type of crispy cookie that makes a snapping sound when eaten or broken in half.
The brittle structure of gingersnap cookies makes them an easy cookie to package as gifts. The spiciness of the ginger and the richness of the molasses pairs well with tea or coffee.
Ginger flavored cakes have a very long history. Written accounts of ginger breads can be found as early as the 13th century in records of medieval monks in Franconia, Germany.
Variations of ginger snaps, ginger nuts, ginger biscuits, and ginger bread can be found around the world. Early versions of gingersnaps were firm gingerbread biscuits pressed with a stamp that imprinted a decorative pattern.
As English, Dutch, and German settlers came to American colonies, they brought the tradition of baking ginger snaps along with the necessary spices, including dried and powdered ginger.
Gingersnap recipes have appeared in many of the early American cookbooks, including The Improved Housewife by Mrs. A. L. Webster, published in 1844, Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book by Catharine Beecher published in 1846, and The Practical Cook Book by Mrs. Bliss in 1850.
This gingersnaps recipe is adapted from my Grandmother’s, The United States Regional Cook Book, published in 1939. When I inherited this cookbook, I noticed several pages marked using bookmarks made from a folded piece of plain paper from our local paper mill. I have kept each bookmark in place all these years. This page spread includes several classic cookie recipes from my childhood, including these gingersnaps. I have used a variation of this recipe for many years.
Steps to Making Gingersnaps Cookies
This gingersnaps recipe is bursting with the flavors of ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and molasses, and coated with granulated sugar for a little sparkle and crackly coating.
It is important to use fresh spices for this recipe. Older spices lose flavor over time and you want the full, warm flavors of fresh spices in these cookies.
You will want to use unsulphured molasses in baking sweets, not blackstrap molasses. Molasses made from ripe sugar cane is called unsulfured molasses. It has a higher natural sugar content that helps preserve it. It tastes sweeter and has no additives. Blackstrap molasses is extracted from unripe sugarcane and treated with sulfur dioxide as a preservative. It has less sugar and a rather bitter flavor that you don’t want when baking cookies.
Step 1: Combine the Dry Ingredients
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together until well combined. Set aside.
Step 2: Make the Cookie Dough
Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, molasses, and continue mixing until everything is well combined.
Gradually add the flour mixture a little at a time and combine until well blended. Cover and chill cookie dough for at least one hour (or up to 24 hours).
Step 3: Bake the Cookies
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Add the granulated sugar to a small bowl.
Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out about a heaping teaspoon of dough and shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in the sugar to coat all sides, and place 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Use the bottom of a glass to flatten the dough balls for a thin crisp cookie, or leave as is for a softer cookie.
Bake in a preheated oven until edges are set and tops are crackled, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool slightly, remove from baking sheet, and cool completely on a wire rack. Let the baking sheets cool, and repeat with the next batch until all the cookie dough is used. Makes about 48 cookies.
To store, let the cookies cool completely, and then store in an airtight container for several weeks, or you can freeze the cookies for up to 6 months.
Old Fashioned Gingersnaps
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg beaten
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar for rolling
- Add flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt to a medium bowl. Stir with a wire whisk until combined. Set aside.
- Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, molasses, and mix until well blended.
- Gradually add flour mixture a little at a time and mix until well blended. Cover and chill cookie dough for at least one hour (or up to 24 hours).
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Add the granulated sugar to a small bowl.
- Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out about a heaping teaspoon of dough and shape into 1-inch sized balls. Roll each ball in the sugar to coat all sides, and place 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of a glass for thin crispy cookies, or leave as is for a soft cookie.
- Bake in a preheated oven until edges are set and tops are crackled, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool slightly, remove from baking sheet, and cool completely on a wire rack. Makes about 48 cookies.
- America’s Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking – Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald
- “A Brief History of Gingerbread” – Smithsonian Magazine
- Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America – Andrew F. Smith
More Christmas Cookie Recipes:
10 Cookie Mix in a Jar Recipes eBook
Homemade gifts are always appreciated because they come from the heart. Even if you are not crafty, you can give DIY gifts to your family and friends with these easy recipes for making cookie mix in a reusable jar.