This is a recipe that bakes up soft and chewy.

Ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg lend plenty of rich holiday flavor, and depending on how you treat the dough, it can even be rolled and cut into shapes that are sturdy without sacrificing texture.

Yield: 2-2 1/2 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • turbinado (raw) sugar, if baking round cookies
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and white sugar until light.
  3. Add egg and molasses and continue to beat until aerated and fluffy.
  4. Stir together flour, spices, salt and baking soda, then gradually add to creamed mixture until mixed well.

For standard round cookies:

5. Dough can be immediately rolled into 1 1/2-inch balls, then rolled in turbinado sugar. Do not flatten the sugared balls of dough.

6. Place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

7. Watch carefully for cookies to become puffy and lightly browned around the edges.

8. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For shaped cookies:

5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough thoroughly.

6. When dough is firm, dust work surface lightly with flour and knead by hand until dough is pliable enough to roll out.

7. Dust work surface lightly with flour again and roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness, then cut out desired shapes and carefully transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between cookies.

8. Transfer the entire pan to the freezer and freeze for 15 minutes, then place directly into the oven and bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are puffed and edges are lightly browned.

9. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Baker's Notes

♦ This is a recipe that really shines with spices, so use the best ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves you can find. I absolutely adore cloves and usually double the amount in this recipe for my taste. If you know you don't love cloves or nutmeg, or if you're crazy for cinnamon and want a little extra, adjust the spices up or down as you see fit. But whatever you do, don't skip the salt!

♦ Every oven bakes a little differently. Baking time is a guideline, not a rule. If you like your cookies super soft and gooey, err on the low side of the baking time. For a cookie that is more crisp, bake a little longer.

♦ To make the rolled and cut cookies, I found chilling the dough twice is absolutely necessary for successful shapes. If you don't, your shapes will spread too much in the oven as they bake and won't be recognizable. This recipe doesn't bake up as cleanly as rolled and cut sugar cookies, but if you treat the dough right, you can definitely get a cutout cookie that is soft and beautiful by itself, or ready to be topped with all sorts of delicious extras such as...

Topping 1: Spiced Pear Compote

Yield: approximately two cups

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 medium Bosc pears
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
DIRECTIONS
  1. Peel, core and chop pears into a rough half-inch dice.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until pears are tender. (They will release juice as they cook.)
  3. When pears are soft and liquid is thick, glossy and coats the back of a spoon, check for seasoning and adjust compote to taste. (Don't be afraid to add a little extra sugar if your pears are particularly tart, or more cinnamon or nutmeg if you'd like it a bit spicier.)
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week, but it is best served warm.
Baker's Note

♦ Bosc pears are widely available at most supermarkets. Their firm flesh is perfect for poaching, simmering and baking.

Topping 2: Whipped Maple Mascarpone

Yield: approximately 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 8-oz. packages mascarpone cheese, chilled
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
DIRECTIONS
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add all ingredients and stir together on low speed until fully incorporated. Mixture will be soft and seem somewhat loose.
  2. When ingredients are thoroughly mixed, increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Serve with a drizzle of additional maple syrup on top.

Topping 3: Roasted Plum Honey

Yield: approximately 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
  • 8-10 small to medium sized plums
  • raw honey
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Slice into plums along their "seam," cutting all the way to the pit, and twist the fruit open. Remove the pit.
  3. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the plums cut-side up. Drizzle lightly with honey and olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Roast for 10-12 minutes or until plums are soft and have released their juices. Cool until easy to handle.
  5. Transfer plums and juice to a food processor fitted with a standard blade and process until smooth.
  6. If you want a smoother texture, run your plum mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
Baker's Note

I tend to use honey very sparingly in this recipe as I want the finished product to be a slightly tart element on the cookie table. As with all fruit, the sweetness of your plums can vary a great deal. Taste before you strain and/or serve, adding more honey as you see fit.

TO ASSEMBLE

Spread gingerbread cookie with whipped maple mascarpone, then spoon spiced pear compote over top. Drizzle with roasted plum honey.

Any number of garnishes would work nicely with this combination: toasted walnuts for richness, chopped crystallized ginger for sweet spice, rock sugar for crunch, pomegranate seeds for tartness, etc.

 

See more holiday magic in our December issue feature, Dreaming in Evergreen.