Gingerbends

Elle and her hairstylist

In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods shows her bumbling stylist the sure way to get any man.
“Whoops, I dropped my pencil,” Elle demonstrates. Then she bends down and snaps up. “Bend and snap! Works every time!”

Some would argue that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In that case, the bend and snap also works. For the holidays (I am way behind in posts), I made the famous Chez Panisse gingersnaps. Although they’re gingerSNAPS, they’re bendy and chewy if you underbake them.

Why are these cookies so famous?  Renee at Feeding Dexygus Seconds once applied to be a pastry chef at Chez Panisse, the restaurant pioneered eating seasonal, local produce (30 years after it opened, the rest of the country finally caught on with the food politics/organic/vegetarian craze). Renee didn’t get the job, but she walked away with one of their recipes. Since sharing this heartwarming story, the recipe spread like wildfire at The Amateur Gourmet, Chocolate & Zucchini, Kottke, The Baking Sheet, Tarting it Up, The Recipe Box, Simply Recipes…you get the idea. I compulsively clip recipes, so it took me a good two years before I had a chance to try it out.

They are one of my favorite non-chocolate cookies, the other being potato chip cookies. Although they look like mis-shapen blobs (the dough is very soft), no one can say no to butter, sugar and warm, tingly spices. If you want them to live true to their name, bake them till they are dark brown. Forget the rule of pulling cookies out of the oven just when the edges brown and the middle is still soft set.

I cheated and actually like the cookies chewy. There’s so much molasses that they’ll be “gingerbends” unless you bake them to death.

They’re more presentable if you slice the dough from a log. Forming it in a loaf pan makes for really big cookies that squish under the knife. If you make rounds, decrease the baking time to 8-9 minutes. I would send you over to Feeding Dexygus Seconds for the recipe, but it doesn’t work now. So here it is in my words. You can actually make the cookies without an electric beater. In Into to Fine Baking at The New School, we didn’t use machines for any of the doughs!

Chez Panisse Gingersnaps

8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
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

In a medium bowl, cream the butter until soft. Beat in the sugar, then add the vanilla and eggs. 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 edges. Firmly press the dough into the bottom of the pan, making 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 the brick into thin slices, no more than 1/8″. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or ungreased foil. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven until the edges turn dark brown, about 12 minutes.

Notes:

  • Alternatively, you can form the dough into a couple logs that are 1 1/2″ in diameter. Slice as directed above and bake for 8-9 min.
  • The dough gets soft quickly, so work quickly.
  • Because the cookies are thin, there’s a fine line between underbaked and burned.

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