Recipe Makeover: Ginger Snaps

“What do you mean they aren’t new?”

You know you’re getting older when your childhood comes back in style. First, it was the clothes. That bell bottoms actually became the rage again is beyond comprehension. Then my husband’s high school students began to talk about Bruce Springsteen as if they had discovered him. Finally, my children’s cartoons and toys gave deja vu a whole new meaning. Holly Hobbie, Transformers, Power Rangers, Strawberry Shortcake and Gang… though more hip than the ones I grew up with, they are familiar nonetheless.

For the most part, nostalgia has made these returns good things, but when my daughter and my niece came to me with the Strawberry Shortcake Berry Yummy Cookbook, I knew that whatever recipe they wanted to make would not bring immediate joy to my heart.

Sure enough, they wanted to make Ginger Snap’s Gingersnaps. For folks who might be unaware, there is a difference between gingersnaps and the ginger cookies most people make these days. Ginger cookies are thick, soft, gingery, molasses cookies. Gingersnaps are thin, crisp cookies flavored by ginger. Essentially, the difference is in the molasses to flour ratio, but that difference creates two very distinct cookies.  Gingersnaps are so-called because they are supposed to literally snap when you break them in half, and they were very popular when I was a child.  How to substitute gluten free flour and replace the sugar and dairy without sacrificing the “snap” of the cookie was going to be tricky.

We put our brains together, though, and in the end we created a rather pleasing gingersnap cookie which all the cousins enjoyed immensely.

The original recipe:

2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 egg, 1/4 cup molasses.

Revising the recipe:

1. Flour: The types and variety of gluten free flours abound, and finding the right combination, along with whether to use potato or arrowroot or tapioca starch, took some work. We finally decided that a mixture of gluten free oat flour, sorghum, and coconut flours with potato starch and a bit of xanthan gum worked the best.

So, I made up a large batch of the following which would yield enough flour to make two batches of the cookie recipe: 1 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour, 1 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup coconut flour, 1 cup potato starch, 2 tsp xanthan gum.

2. Sugar: Usually I like to use Agave because I can use so very little of it. For one cup of sugar, I could use a scant 1/4 cup of Agave. Agave, however, would provide moistness which we wanted to avoid for gingersnaps. My second choice would normally be to use stevia, but stevia has a distinct flavor which wouldn’t combine well with the ginger. In the end we decided to use coconut sugar because we were already using the coconut flour, and it would complement the ginger well. In addition, the glycemic index of coconut sugar is very low.

3. Butter: Normally I would replace the butter with a plant-based oil because it’s healthier, but we would have the same problem of adding unwanted moisture. Since we were using the coconut sugar and flours, it might make sense to use coconut oil, but coconut oil wouldn’t provide the spreading of the batter which is necessary for a gingersnap to be thin and crispy. So, finally we decided simply to stick with “butter” and use the vegan, soy-free version offered by Earth balance.

4. Molasses: Since I try to reduce sugars as much as possible, we opted to replace the regular molasses with date molasses. It’s still higher in sugars than I’d like but it has less than regular molasses and at least has the advantage of being made with dates. Plus it’s only a scant 1/4 in the recipe, so overall what we’re adding per cookie isn’t much.

5. Egg: Since we don’t have an issue with eggs (currently) we opted to leave it as is for our version, but I tried making it with ground flaxseed mixed with water as an egg substitute, and the batter worked just as well.

Gluten and Dairy Free Gingersnaps

(makes about three dozen cookies)

Ingredients:

2 cups gluten free flour blend*

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup vegan butter

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg or 1 tbsp flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water

1/4 cup molasses

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

3. Cream the butter. Add the coconut sugar and vanilla. Mix well.

4. Add the egg (or flaxseed mixture) and beat well.

5. Slowly add the molasses while mixing on low.

6. Gradually add in the flour in small increments and beat until well combined.

7. Drop dough by level tablespoons onto the cookie sheets, making sure to leave space for them to spread.

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cookies have browned and spread.

9. Let the cookies cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet. Then remove them with a spatula to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. It’s important that they cool completely, because that’s what will harden them and give you the “snap”.

* Gluten Free Flour Blend:1 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour, 1 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup coconut flour, 1 cup potato starch, 2 tsp xanthan gum. (Will make two batches of cookies)  

 

Holiday Traditions: Revamping Candy Cane Cookies

When life hands you lemons, make cookies.

Last week was difficult for our family. We attended our second funeral in three weeks. This time it was a classmate of my daughter’s whom we’ve known since Kindergarten and who just graduated with my daughter in June from high school. It was heartbreaking because she was a friend and so young, but it also brought out other emotions in my daughter who was hit two months ago today by a car and survived.

As I’ve wrestled with my own emotions, I wondered, “What do you do when the lemons you’re being handed are just too tart for making lemonade?” There isn’t enough sweetener in the world to turn such an event into anything other than what it is — a tragedy.

In the midst of our sad week, one of my sister-in-laws emailed me, asking about cookies which I used to make years ago — peppermint candy cane cookies. I hadn’t made them in a long time because I had found that substituting for the powdered sugar and cutting back on the butter really did affect the cookies.

This week, however, I decided that sometimes you just have to relax the standards a bit, because when people say, “Life is short,” it may be shorter than we anticipate. So, I adapted the recipe to be dairy and gluten free but still with sugar and fat. My thinking now is that sometimes we are given lemons, not so we can learn how to make lemonade when life is tough, but so we will be reminded to stop and make cookies with our children.

Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar*

1 1/4 cup Earth Balance soy and dairy free butter**

1 egg at room temperature

1 tsp peppermint extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups gluten free flour blend (use a brown rice version like King Arthur’s or Authentic Foods)

3/4 cup sorghum flour

1/4 tsp salt

red gel food color

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line flat cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a mixer, mix powdered sugar, butter, egg, and the peppermint and vanilla extracts, beating just until well mixed and creamy.

3. Mix the gluten free flour blend and the sorghum flour and salt. Add to the wet mixture and mix just until well blended.

4. Divide the dough in half and add a drop or two of the red gel food color to one of the halves.

5. To make the cookies, roll one tsp of each color, white and red, into straight strands. Then twist the two strands together and curve the top to look like a candy cane.

6. Place the cookies on the lined cookie sheets with enough room for some spreading, and bake for 8 to 12 minutes until they are puffed and beginning to harden. (Time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the cookies, which inevitably will get bigger as your children continue to make the cookies!)

7. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before removing them to the wire cooling rack to completely cool.

8. Store cookies in a container lined with waxed or parchment paper or a paper towel.

* If you want to avoid using sugar, you can make your own powdered sugar out of Truvia or coconut sugar. You simply process either in a food processor until it’s powdery like powdered sugar and then substitute your version into the recipe. I have found, though, that this does affect the taste and texture of these cookies, though.

** You can cut the butter in half for this recipe if you really do need to watch your fat intake. The cookies just won’t be as buttery or puffed.