Take a look at these cookies. Have you ever seen a more modest, unassuming cookie? Each one is slightly misshapen and a little crooked. Well, who cares what they look like. They are wafer-thin explosions of taste and spice and warmth, and as soon as the weather gets cold, they are what we bake.
These cookies have an interesting pedigree. We discovered them on the now-defunct blog Feeding Dexygus Seconds, where Renee told a story of applying for a job at Chez Panisse. She was a new pastry chef, and didn't really have a good chance at the position (it is one of the world's premier restaurants, after all), but she knew she had to try. She didn't get the job, but during the staff lunch she had some amazing gingersnaps. At the end of the tryout she had the wonderful chutzpah to request the recipe. They gave it to her — what a great takeaway from a job interview!
Since then Alice Waters did share a gingersnap recipe in her latest book, but it differs from this recipe, so we're sticking to this one. (You can see Waters' recipe over at David Lebovitz's blog.)
Since her blog is defunct, we'll share the recipe here with you. It's a wonderful recipe for hoarding at home, since you make the dough then freeze it in a block. You have to slice the dough frozen, so it's perfect for chipping off a few cookies every evening. It's also great for gifting; what's better than a big block of frozen cookie dough? Especially with a pedigree like this one.
Chez Panisse Gingersnaps Adapted from Feeding Dexygus Seconds. Makes at least 3 dozen, depending on thickness.
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter 1 1/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 eggs 1/3 cup molasses 3 cups all-purpose flour 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 teaspoons cinnamon 3 teaspoons ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cream butter and sugar until very soft and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until fluffy. Add molasses and beat until well-incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture. On low speed, mix until it all just comes together.
Line a 9" x 5" loaf pan with plastic wrap, so that some hangs over the outsides. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Pack it tightly, and try to make the top as level as possible. Cover the dough with the plastic overhangs. Freeze until very firm, preferably overnight. Unwrap and remove dough from the pan. Slice brick into very, very thin slices, no more than 1/8". Place on a parchment-lined sheetpan and bake at 350 degrees until the edges turn dark brown, about 12 minutes.
These are lovely when just slightly burned on the edges.