About once a month we start looking for a little something for church coffee hour. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, nor does it have to be huge, but just something that people can munch on while they chat a bit. Of course, with Hallowe’en almost upon us, we were thinking of something that would match the season. Initially we thought of mini chocolate cupcakes with an orange-colored frosting, but, having just made several cakes in a row, we went with something a little easier: Ginger Thins cookies.
A word of warning about this recipe. No, it’s not difficult, but it makes a lot of cookies. Sure, they’re small cookies, but, you’d better be ready to bake about 1000 cookies. Yes, about 80 dozen cookies. With amounts like that, you might expect that we’ll be dumping in full bags of flour, but no. The amount of ingredients is quite normal; it’s just that each cookie uses so little dough (remember, they’re called thins) that you get a huge number of cookies. That said, baking all these cookies goes pretty quickly; you can have one sheet in baking (only 7 minutes), giving you just enough time to remove previously-baked cookies and pipe out another batch. Another word of warning: don’t even think about scooping this dough; it’ll drive you crazy. Use a piping bag for speed and sanity.
Oops! Almost forgot, this recipe comes from the best all-around cookbook available: The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S Raumbauer and Marion Rombauer Becker.
Unsalted butter, so your cookies don’t taste like a salt disk; the egg should be from healthy, happy hens that get to peck and scratch and live like hens should. Note that we list weights for the ingredients, especially for the molasses. It’s sticky and syrupy and just makes a mess if you have to pour it into a measuring cup, then pour it out. It’s just easier to place the mixing bowl on the scale, and slowly pour in the 85 grams.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats (strongly recommended) or baking parchment. Failing that, you can grease the baking sheets.
Sift dry ingredients. Well, we think you can get by without sifting, provided you’re not grinding the spices yourself (we ground our own cloves and wanted to make sure no chunks of clove got through). If that’s the case, just whisk together the dry ingredients and let it go at that.
Cream butter. We always like to cream the butter a bit before adding the sugar. It helps us determine if the butter is warm enough to cream properly. So, add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and turn the mixer to medium. In under a minute, the butter should be smooth and shiny. If not, your butter is too cold; let it warm for a while and try again.
Add brown sugar. Measure the brown sugar onto the creamed butter and start mixing on low. Increase the speed to medium and cream the sugar into the butter until slightly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add molasses and egg. Drop in the egg and molasses and mix on medium until incorporated. The mixture will look like it’s curdled, but that’s normal. Once you add the dry ingredients, it’ll look like dough.
Add dry ingredients. Stop the mixer, and pour in the flour mixture. Use a spoon or a rubber spatula to start mixing in the flour (so it doesn’t poof out when you turn on the mixer), then continue mixing on low until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour that’s hiding.
Transfer to piping bag. This is easiest with a helper, but scoop the dough into a piping bag with a 3/16-inch opening. You can either use a tip, or, if you’re like us, you can use a disposable bag, and just cut off a bit to make an appropriately-sized hole.
Pipe. Pipe small dots of dough onto the baking sheet. Each dot should be about 1/8 of a teaspoon, with about an inch of spacing between. You’ll be able to fit a lot of cookies on each sheet. We generally did about 77 (seven rows of 11 dots) per sheet. As we said above, this makes a lot of cookies. We think we did 12 to 14 sheets, total.
Bake. Slide the sheet into the oven and bake 7 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. While one sheet is baking, you should have enough time to pipe out the next sheet of cookies.
Cool. You have a couple of choices. If you want crunchy, crispy cookies, let them cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes — they continue baking from the residual heat — before transferring to a rack. If you want cookies that are a bit chewier, start removing them to a cooling rack as soon as you can.
Yes, you get a lot of cookies, but these are teeny-tiny cookies. Don’t let that fool you, though; these things are as addictive as potato chips. Remember the saying, “bet you can’t eat just one”? We think that should be modified to “bet you can’t eat just a dozen,” for Ginger Thins. They’re really good, and, while we made both crispy and chewy versions, we think we liked the crispy ones better. They had a nice spicy, molasses-y snap that made them irresistible; we easily went through a dozen or so while baking. Just to keep up our strength, of course. Four stars, because you have to pipe out hundreds of cookies, but, you can easily reduce the batch size.