soft ginger cookies

Soft ginger cookies

4 December 2015

I want to love Christmas, I really do – the family time, the festive anticipation, the nostalgic songs, the cozy glow. But I want the Little House on the Prairie version, where we make maple candy in fresh snow, and everyone is overjoyed with a peppermint stick and a fresh orange in the toe of their stockings.

What summons my Scrooge is the fairytale spinning that starts the instant Halloween ends, built around the insane idea that our fondest wishes will be magically fulfilled, and we will come together with our loved ones in immaculate joy and harmony. How is that not a set-up for disappointment?

And whose deranged idea was it to make already-stretched parents – mostly moms, let’s be honest – toil in secret for months so that some imaginary bearded guy can look like an effortless gift genius?

A dude invented Santa, no doubt. And surely a beleaguered sister came up with the Christmas cookie tradition as a coping mechanism. Because what better for stress eating than homemade cookies? Amen, girlfriend.

In my kitchen, I want Christmas cookies to relieve anxiety, not create it. These soft ginger cookies check all the boxes for me: comfortingly pliable and buttery, with the festive spices of ginger and cinnamon, they are also easy (obvs), quick (no chilling/rolling/frosting) and long lasting (for sending/gifting).

I crammed in a lot of online holiday shopping before Thanksgiving this year, taking breaks to test batches of these cookies. And honestly the cookies soothed away my holiday grumbles. If I were a country singer, my anthem wouldn’t be about fried chicken and cold beer, it would be about warm cookies and hot tea.

Many variations exist on this excellent basic recipe: shortening vs butter, brown sugar vs white, baking soda/powder variations, different spices, additions of crystallized ginger or a granulated sugar coating. Even the versions we liked less were still pretty great. So I’m giving you the basic recipe as a solid start, but there’s room to play with spices or additions as you like.

In general, shortening makes a thicker cookie, but butter is better for flavor. Crisco weirds me out, so I use all butter, even though it gives a flatter (but still nicely soft) cookie. I don’t find that refrigerating the dough helps the all-butter dough bake up thicker, but I do have a variation with reduced butter and sugar that makes for a chunkier round.

Granulated sugar gives a lighter taste and slightly crispier texture; brown sugar gives a softer texture with a slightly stronger taste. I liked splitting the difference with a mix.

butter and sugars

Add egg.

add egg

Molasses and a touch of orange juice, which gives extra moistness and flavor.

molasses and oj

Mix dry ingredients with a fork (I don’t own a sifter; don’t tell anyone).

dry ingredients

Add dry ingredients gradually, stirring until just mixed.

add dry ingredients

Drop cookie dough in even spoonfuls. Rolling the balls of dough in sugar gives a nice effect, but be warned the dough is sticky. If you have time to chill it first, the dough will handle more easily. But I just drop it and go.

drop cookie dough

Here’s the regular version.

flatter cookies

And this is the chunkier version.

thicker cookies

Most cookies get dry after a couple of days, but when stored in an airtight container, these cookies stay perfectly soft and surprisingly fresh for a week or more – which makes them perfect for Christmas gifting. Just take a break to enjoy a few yourself first.

soft ginger cookies

More holiday baking

Soft Ginger Cookies
In my kitchen, I want Christmas cookies to relieve anxiety, not create it. These soft ginger cookies check all the boxes for me: comfortingly pliable and buttery, with the festive spices of ginger and cinnamon, they are also easy (obvs), quick (no chilling/rolling/frosting) and long lasting (for sending/gifting). Adapted from Allrecipes.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons; 1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (granulated, brown, or a mix – see notes)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses (light or dark)
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice (or water)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together softened butter and sugar. Add an egg and beat well. Mix in molasses and orange juice (or water). Gradually add in flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  3. Drop cookies by spoonful onto an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
  4. The cookies are best slightly underbaked, so bake until just done, 8-10 minutes. Tops should no longer look wet, and edges will be starting to brown. (And don’t worry if you overbake; the cookies will just be less soft, more chewy, but still good.)

Makes 24-30 cookies.

Notes

  • For a chunkier cookie: use 1/2 cup butter (instead of 3/4) and 3/4 cup sugar (instead of 1 cup).
  • Granulated sugar gives a lighter taste and slightly crispier texture; brown sugar gives a softer texture with a slightly stronger taste. Usually I split the difference and use 1/2 granulated, 1/2 brown. And if you want to use a mix of white and brown sugar, that would be 6 tablespoons of each (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons).
  • In general, shortening makes a thicker cookie, but butter is better for flavor. I use all butter, even though it gives a flatter (but still nicely soft) cookie.
  • Rolling the balls of dough in sugar gives a nice effect, but be warned the dough is sticky. If you have time to chill it first, the dough will handle more easily.
  • I don’t find that refrigerating the dough helps the all-butter dough bake up thicker, but you can certainly refrigerate or freeze the dough ahead and bake it later. It also works well to freeze cookies after they are baked.
  • For a stronger ginger flavor, add crystallized ginger, roughly chopped (up to 3/4 cup).
  • Stored in an airtight container, these cookies stay perfectly soft and surprisingly fresh for a week or more, which makes them ideal for gifting.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

PlumGaga 4 December 2015 at 11:49 am

The great-aunt who gave me my ginger cookie recipe taught me to store them in an air-tight container with a few wedges of apple. This not only keeps them moist longer but improves the flavor. You just have to put the apple on a bit of foil or a small dish so that the cookies don’t touch it and get soggy.

Reply

cg 8 December 2015 at 1:22 am

hi plumgaga – thanks for sharing the tip!

Reply

Kathie Boucher 4 December 2015 at 12:05 pm

This is almost exactly my Irish grandma’s much loved ginger cookie recipe. I would rather have these than anything chocolate and will eat them until I’m literally ill 🙂 so I don’t make them nearly as often as I’d like to. Grandma always made them with shortening, and she formed the dough into rolls, refrigerated them, then sliced the cookies for baking. So they ended up thin and kind of rectangular. I use butter and do mine like you’ve illustrated here, and always roll them in sugar. I like to add crystalized ginger too–Penzey’s sells it already diced. Yum.

Reply

cg 8 December 2015 at 1:23 am

hi kathie – thanks so much for sharing back! love the tips.

Reply

Leah 4 December 2015 at 4:11 pm

Sing it, sista! I agree with every word of your post. Plus, these are my favorite holiday cookies – thanks for all the tips. Will be sure to try them out soon!

Reply

cg 8 December 2015 at 1:25 am

thanks leah! i am glad you understand me. =) we’re gonna make it through!

Reply

Linda 8 December 2015 at 10:33 am

I’m thinking of making and freezing the cookies. Any comments or advice?
Thanks!

Reply

cg 8 December 2015 at 11:20 am

hi linda – not a problem, the baked cookies freeze well in an airtight container or bag. alternatively, you can also freeze the dough (freeze the dough balls in a single layer first; once frozen, you can put them in a ziploc bag for easier storage) and bake later. or form the dough into logs and freeze those, well wrapped, and cut slices for baking later (just refrigerate the dough before forming logs – it’s too sticky when freshly made). hope that helps!

Reply

Susan Anderheggen 2 January 2016 at 12:54 pm

Hi Lilian,
I just made these and they are AMAZING! I followed the recipe “for a chunkier cookie”. I used 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar. I also used honey instead of molasses as I had no molasses and looked on the Internet for “molasses substitutions” and it said honey can be used in most cases, yielding different flavor but same consistency. Anyway, they are hard to stop eating.

Also, I have now made your pumpkin cookies 3x with chopped walnuts instead of chocolate chips and using white whole wheat flour. My husband and I love love love them! And they masquerade as somewhat healthier than most cookies, so we can eat more of them. ?

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