I first visited San Francisco in 2004. Whilst wandering around the Ferry Building food market, I came across a vision of pastel pastry loveliness. There were tiny layer cakes on milk-glass stands, fresh tulips on the counter, and cellophane bags of cookies tied up with crisp pink bows. I had found Miette bakery. It took forever for me to decide what to buy, but realizing that it probably wasn’t possible to eat an entire cake, however dainty, on my own – although the thought did cross my mind – I settle on a bag of gingersnaps. Later that evening, in the flickering blue light of a Market street hotel room, I lay on the bed and idly nibbled on a gingersnap. And then sat up – this was a gingersnap with attitude. This was a gingersnap as crisp as a potato chip, a gingersnap with a peppery bite and ginger, lots of ginger. On subsequent trips to San Fran., I tracked down Miette’s larger store on Octavia street, Hayes valley. Feminine as a teenage girl’s bedroom, this shop carries a range of exquisite candies, as well as a larger assortment of baked goods than the Ferry Building. And they still had the gingersnaps.
I bought an indecent number of these, and back in New Zealand, eked out their consumption, only sharing them when it would have been positively rude not to. So you can imagine my joy when Amazon informed me that a Miette cookbook would soon be available.The postman had barely backed his van out of the drive before my oven was on and my apron tied. Then I rolled and baked, and rolled and baked (these are very thin and need patience to roll and cut).
So, how were they? Well, they were good, very very good, but they weren’t quite the cookie in my memory. No matter, a little tinkering, and another round of baking, and there they were, the gingersnaps of my dreams.
300gm (10.5 oz) flour
80gm (2 1/2 oz) whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
225gm (8 oz) unsalted butter
150gm (5 oz.) brown sugar
4 tbsp treacle
125gm (4 oz) crystallized ginger, finely minced
4 tsp finely grated fresh ginger root
Things to know: you can stop the crystallized ginger sticking to your knife if you give it (the knife, not the ginger) a blast of cooking spray. A microplane zesting tool will give you the best result for grating the root ginger, otherwise use the fine eyes of a box grater. Make sure your butter is at room temperature, it’ll cream up a lot easier. Give yourself plenty of time for this recipe, the dough needs frequent chilling.
Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, include the bran from the whole-wheat flour that remains in the sieve.
Use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the crystallized ginger and root ginger and beat until its evenly incorporated into the butter.
Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
Lay a sheet of non-stick baking paper on your bench, take enough dough to form a log 8″ long, about 2″ around and center it on the paper, cover with another sheet of baking paper and roll out to 1/4″ thickness. Try to keep the dough even; rolling pin guides are helpful for this job. Carefully lay the paper and dough sandwich on a baking sheet and chill until the dough is very firm, at least 30 minutes, (or you can freeze the sheets of dough at this point.) Repeat this with the remaining dough, stacking the sheets on top of each other.
Place the oven rack in the center position. Unless you have great hand-eye co-ordination and can juggle rotating and swapping the position of two hot baking sheets, I suggest baking the snaps one sheet at a time. Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F)
Peel the top layer of paper loose, lay it back in place and flip the stiff, chilled dough over and peel off and discard this paper. Dip a round cutter into flour and cut the cookies as close together as possible. I used a scalloped cutter and added a border of holes, in homage to the Miette style, using a wooden skewer to make the pattern.
The scraps can be gently gathered together and rerolled, then chilled. If the dough becomes too soft to cut and lift off the paper, return to the fridge and re-chill.
Transfer the cut-outs to a baking sheet lined with baking paper, sprinkle generously with sugar, then bake for 10-12 minutes until very brown.
Cool on a wire rack, and try not to eat the whole batch at once. They will keep well for a week or more in an airtight container.
Do let me know if you try this recipe, cheers from the Antipodes, Karen