Hello, Autumn: Ginger Ginger Blah Blah Blah Ginger Cookies

The weather has taken a definitive turn towards autumn in our neck of the woods.  Even though there are still a few tomatoes on the vine, and the basil plants have not yet succumbed to the first frost, the chill in the air makes me crave something that would usher in the change of season – but gently, gradually, not like those garish displays of animated Christmas decorations in the supermarket.

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve never posted anything about cookies here.  It’s not that I don’t like cookies (really, quite the opposite), but more because our house has always pledged allegiance to the chocolate chip cookie, with the occasional nod to a bittersweet chocolate drop cookie.  A couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves in a bakery/cafe for brunch, and I had the most wonderful ginger cookie which left such an impression, evoked such a timely feeling of seasonality, that it sent me on a quest to find a way to enjoy that same feeling at home.

There are a lot of ginger cookie recipes out there, and I ultimately decided on this one, from Epicurious.  If you do the research, you’ll find that ginger cookie recipes all have some basic ingredients in common, and already I am feeling confident enough to start experimenting with variations on this recipe.  In fact, I’m looking to translate the core flavors of this cookie, along with some special modifications, to a cake or loaf pan recipe.

A proper ginger cookie recipe is loaded to bear with all manner of fall weather spices – besides the obvious ginger, there’s clove and cinnamon.  To have the cookies turn out as chewy as possible, the primary sweetener is dark brown sugar, along with the addition of molasses to add another depth of flavor.  My favorite thing about this particular recipe, though, is the inclusion of chopped candied ginger.  If you’ve never worked with candied ginger before, let me warn you that it is an addictive ingredient – you can eat the chunks like candy, and each bite is a tiny explosion of intense ginger flavor, offset by the sweet coating of sugar.  It’s no wonder that candied ginger works so well in baking.  Whatever remains after you’ve assembled the cookies will probably be gone by the time they’re done baking.

Besides the brown sugar, the balls of dough are rolled in white sugar right before baking.  As they cook, the cookies will spread out and crack, but remain soft.  I actually should have abided by the recipe’s instructions to the letter – at 12 minutes, the cookies still seemed a bit underdone, so I let them go for another three or four minutes, which turned out to be a mistake.  That quality that I perceived to be underdone was actually the star attribute of a ginger cookie, since it will remain soft and chewy for several days if you keep them in an airtight container.