Old Fashioned Ginger Snaps
I love using recipes that I know have been in my family for nearly 100 years. These Old Fashioned Ginger Snaps are one of my favorites, especially in Autumn.
Rolled and refrigerator cookies are slowly becoming a thing of the past, especially since so many quicker cookies are now available in the refrigerator & freezer sections of the grocery. I’m not judging anyone who uses these products. In my opinion, at least the act of baking isn’t being overlooked completely. I am a big fan of bonding with your family over the act of cooking, not just the eating of the food.
Gingersnaps are one of City Spouse’s favorites. It also helps that these cookies are the crust when I make a pumpkin cheesecake. They are wonderful to taste, and they will give your kitchen a wonderful ginger scent as they bake.
The smell of freshly baked cookies is just so inviting. There are a lot of realtors that bake cookies in the house the day of an open house to help create that “homey” atmosphere that appeals to our senses. It reminds us of comfort, of grandma, and of Home.
Here is my great-grandma’s recipe for Old-Fashioned Gingersnaps, passed down through her family. I don’t know the exact origin or who the first generation was to make it, but it is definitely one of my favorites. I recommend using a round cookie cutter (I actually just use this doughnut cutter with the center removed) to keep to the “old-fashioned” feel.
- 1 cup molasses
- ½ c. brown sugar
- ½ c. shortening
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 cups flour
- Cream together shortening and sugar. Heat molasses to boiling in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add ginger and salt. Cool. Combine with creamed sugar and shortening. Sift flour, measure, and sift with baking soda. Combine with molasses mixture. Mix thoroughly. Chill overnight. Turn onto lightly floured board. Roll in thin sheet (approximately 1/4 inch). Cut with floured cutter. Place on slightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 F for 6-8 minutes. (Please note: baking times will vary greatly depending upon thickness of cookies. Keep a careful eye on these as they bake. The edges will brown and the entire cookie will change color. They will quickly burn if over-baked due to the molasses.)
- Makes 36 cookies.
Gingersnaps, also called ginger biscuits, are a type of cookie. The name comes from the fact these cookies traditionally are very crispy and make a snapping sound when eaten. Gingersnaps are a spin-off from gingerbread and were invented hundreds of years ago. People in colonial times enjoyed these cookies, both in European countries and in America. Rebecca Darnell is credited with inventing the gingersnap in 1776 while she was trying to make chocolate chip cookies. Her mistake of using ginger instead of chocolate developed into the now popular gingersnap.
Ginger is derived from the ginger root and is native to parts of South Asia. Historians believe it was first cultivated in India. Ginger was desirable for its valuable effects on health and it is said to have been imported for its medicinal uses before it was it was used for cooking purposes. Ginger found its way to ancient Rome, then to Africa and the Caribbean. In medieval times, ginger was imported to Europe in preserved form to be used in baking treats such as cakes and cookies.
Gingersnaps in Europe
Gingersnaps have a long history in England and Germany. The cookies were made using molasses as a sweetener rather than refined sugar because it was less expensive. As England expanded its colonial rule, it brought many of its cooking and baking traditions to these colonized countries. European settlers in the American colonies continued baking ginger snaps, bringing the necessary ingredients, including preserved and powdered ginger, with them.
Gingersnaps in America
European and British food traditions continued even after Americans gained their independence from Britain. Recipes that had been passed down, such as the traditional molasses and ginger recipe for snaps, continued to be used. Gingersnaps commonly are baked around the holidays.
Ways to Serve Gingersnaps
Gingersnaps are served as holiday treats but they may accompany tea and coffee. Colonial tea services included light bites to eat such as cucumber sandwiches, small cakes, and cookies such as gingersnaps. The spiciness of the ginger and the richness of molasses pairs well with tea or coffee. Gingersnaps also serve as garnishes in other baking recipes.