A holiday classic: Gingersnaps

The other day, a reader on our  community site, The Baking Circle, asked about old-fashioned cookie recipes. She writes as follows:

“My dad, who is 83, has been asking me to bake cookies that are a bit old fashioned. Like HIS MOTHER use to bake. Now… anyone have old recipes for cookies?”

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the words “old-fashioned cookie”?

Depends on how old you are, right?

Gen-X and Gen-Y probably think Oreos, or Chips Ahoy. Or maybe Fig Newtons, the ultimate “old fogy” cookie in the supermarket aisle.

We older folks (read: Boomers. Get over it! We’re “older folks”) are more likely to think of something homemade.

Me, I get a mental picture of big, solid sugar cookies. And peanut butter criss-crosses. And soft molasses cookies, big enough to cover the palm of your hand.

And gingersnaps.

But not just any gingersnap. No, the “boxed cookie” gingersnap – a pale thing, barely two bites big – just doesn’t cut it.

I like my gingersnaps thick and crunchy, with a fissured, sugar/crackly top. Big enough to last through a cup of tea, or a glass of lemonade (gingersnaps and lemonade being one of summer’s signature pleasures).

In other words, I like my gingersnaps homemade.

Boomer or not, if you’re looking for a classic old-fashioned cookie, one that’s absolutely perfect for the holidays — you’ve found it.

Let’s make Gingersnaps.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Put the following in a bowl:

3/4 cup vegetable shortening*
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda

*Can you substitute butter for the vegetable shortening? Yes; but the cookies will be soft, not crisp.

Beat until smooth.

Add 1 large egg (I know, it’s not showing; I didn’t add it yet), and 1/3 cup molasses.

Beat until smooth. Add the following:

2 1/3 cups (9 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 to 2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat until smooth and stiff.

Make coating by combining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Ordinarily I’d use our Cinnamon-Sugar Plus, a delightful mixture of superfine sugar and Vietnamese cinnamon. But for these particular cookies, I want crunch – the crunch of regular granulated sugar, hand-mixed with Vietnamese cinnamon.

Place the coating in a shallow pan or dish. Drop the dough in 1″ balls into the cinnamon-sugar mixture; a teaspoon cookie scoop is perfect here.

Roll the balls in the sugar to coat.

Transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 1/2″ between them; they’ll spread as they bake.

It’s always good to bake a test batch first. You’ll usually have a few cookies, the scrapings from the bottom of the bowl, that just don’t fit onto that second or third baking sheet; don’t try to crowd them on. Instead, bake those leftovers first.

A test batch tells you two things: whether your baking time yields the degree of crispness you like…

…and whether the cookies are the right distance apart. Some of these, as you can see, were too close together.

Bake the cookies for 11 minutes, for cookies that are crisp around the edges, and “bendy” in the center. Bake for 13 minutes, for cookies that are crisp/crunchy all the way through.

I like cookies that are crisp all the way through – see the “13” on the parchment? 13 minutes. And DUH, I still didn’t leave enough space between them!

Oh well… if you’re like me and always try to crowd too many cookies onto a pan, and they run together, take a knife and cut them apart while they’re still hot.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool right on the pan, or on a rack. Cool completely, then store tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

Enjoy an old-fashioned cup of tea with your old-fashioned cookie…

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Gingersnaps.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Cindy Womack

    I just made some in hopes they would be flat as well .. like the picture but mine were also rounded and very, very dark; as well as chewy, not crisp. I measured the flour by weight so I know that’s not the issue. What else Could cause these to flop?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi, Cindy. We’re happy to help! Your gingersnaps could have needed just a tad longer in the oven to yield a truly crisp cookie. Also, did you use butter or shortening in your dough? Butter will make the cookies softer rather than crip in texture. As for the lack of spread we recommend letting the oven preheat for at least half an hour to ensure it up to the right temperature, which will help encourage the cookies to spread more. Also, if the baking sheet you used was darker this could have caused the bottom of the cookies to set before they had the chance to spread so for that, we suggest doubling up on the pans to help insulate the cookies. Happy baking! Kindly, Morgan@KAF

  2. nayda

    I’m baking these right now and they are not flat more round shape. I did not chill the dough… does this need to happen in order for it to spread thinly?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Nayda, these gingersnaps are intentionally on the thicker side, and if they were still in the oven as you wrote this, they may have continued to flatten out a bit as they baked and cooled. If they seemed to stay too mounded even once cooled, it’s possible that you may have unintentionally been a little heavy handed with the flour measurement. Our recipes assume a relatively light cup of flour (4.25 oz or 120 grams), which is best achieved either by weighing, or by using our fluff, sprinkle, sweep method. Dipping the measuring cup straight into the bag of flour can lead to a much heavier cup, and therefore a drier dough that doesn’t spread quite as much. If you’re up for it, we hope you’ll give these cookies another try using this technique. We suspect you’ll be much happier with your results! Mollie@KAF

  3. Diane

    These are absolutely scrumptious! Love, love, love the snap! I substituted refined coconut oil (solid) for the veg. shortening and ran out of ground ginger so used 1tsp. powdered and 1tsp. fresh grated. They turned out amazing. Thank you, never again will I buy store bought gingersnaps.

  4. Heather

    If I want to use fresh ginger instead of the powdered in this recipe, how much would you suggest and would you make any other adjustments (like for moisture or anything)?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Heather, I don’t think you’ll want to use fresh ginger exclusively, as the cookies will likely turn out less snappy. Try adding a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger in addition to the powdered ginger to give this cookies a little more bite. Barb@KAF

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