IMBB #10: Cookie Swap: Chez Panisse Gingersnaps
It's time for another IMBB. This time the theme is holiday cookies, and it's being hosted by busy girl Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess. This one was quite easy, in many ways. First of all, this cookie is a shoe-in for my favorite holiday cookie. Second, I already had some in the freezer, so all I had to do was bake some off.
This cookie doesn't look like much, but it really packs a punch. It's crisp, buttery, and full of spices. It's also the most addictive cookie I know. There's a little story as to how I acquired this recipe. Some of you may know that I'm a pastry cook. Several years ago, when I was very new to the industry, I tried out for a pastry position at the famed Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. I don't know what I was thinking. I'd only been doing pastry for 3 months. I knew I was too inexperienced to hope for a job here, but I also knew that I'd regret it if I didn't seize the opportunity, and give it my best. So, trying out at Chez Panisse consisted of making some cookie dough, baking some cookies, prepping some perfect grapes for dessert, and other things that have escaped me. I also had to bring in a dessert for them to taste. I stayed in the kitchen long enough to share staff lunch. I still remember it. Wonderful butternut squash ravioli with browned butter and sage. For dessert, gingersnaps. I was so taken with these cookies. I knew I couldn't pig out on them, but was it bad form to request the recipe? At the end of the tryout, after the interview during which I was pretty tongue-tied, and uttered such jumbled figures of speech as, "I'm kind of green behind the ears, but I'm a quick learner," I knew it wasn't going too well. So I thought, hell, just ask for it. So I said, "In case I don't see you again, could I have the gingersnap recipe?" She said yes! And now I'll share the recipe with you, with just a few changes. By the way, I didn't get the job.
Chez Panisse Gingersnaps
8 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 small eggs or 1 1/2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Cream butter until soft. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until fluffy. Add molasses and beat until well-incorporated. Sift the dry ingredients, and add 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 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.
-The dough gets soft quickly, so work fast.
-Because the cookies are so thin, there's a fine line between underbaked and burned. Keep an eye on them. And actually I think they taste best when they're very slightly burned on the edges.
*Edited on 12/6/04 to add: Thanks to a comment left by brian w, I realized that I failed to mention a helpful tip. Regarding the smoothing of the dough in the loaf pan: Once the dough is covered with plastic wrap, take another loaf pan, of the same size, and use it to press the dough flat. You'll have to move it around a bit to really get into the corners and sides, but it's really easy.