Soft gingersnaps

all-purpose flour, 2 1/4 cups
ground ginger, 2-3 teaspoons*
baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons
ground cinnamon, 1/2-1 teaspoon*
nutmeg, freshly ground, 1/2-1 teaspoon*
salt, 1/2 teaspoon
black pepper, freshly ground, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon*
dark brown sugar, packed, 3/4 cup
unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 cup (2 sticks)
egg, one
blackstrap molasses, 1/2 cup
fresh ginger, finely grated, 2-3 teaspoons*
vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon
crystallized or candied ginger, finely chopped, 1/4-3/4 cup*
sanding sugar, 1 cup (don't skimp!)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (177° C) and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk first seven dry ingredients (all except sugar) in a medium bowl. 
*All spices in the recipe have a three-point range (e.g. use 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger for average spiciness; 3 teaspoons for extra spice; 2 teaspoons for a milder cookie). 
3. Beat brown sugar and softened butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. 
4. Slowly add egg, molasses, fresh ginger, vanilla and crystallized ginger until just blended. 
5. Slowly add flour mixture until blended.
6. Fill a shallow bowel with a generous quantity of sanding sugar. 
7. Scoop dough with a tablespoon. Using a second spoon, scoop into sugar and turn to coat well. (Coat it really, really well or it will stick to your hands.)
8. Roll into ball and drop onto baking sheets, spacing balls about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
9. Bake cookies until edges are firm and centers appear cracked, about 12 minutes.

the story
During my first year of fellowship, I liked to bake something to thank my residents for their hard work at the end of each long (and invariably emotionally, physically and intellectually taxing) month. During my first month as the oncology fellow, the residents got strawberry cupcakes. My second month included Thanksgiving, so I made eight kinds of Christmas cookies, including these, adapted from Bon Appétit. The range for the spices came from my dad's impression that they were quite mild, while my mom felt they were plenty spicy. Use the top end of the range for a very spicy cookie; the middle for a typical gingersnap; and the low end for a mild cookie.

First cookie of the season. December 2013.
toddler rating
awesomely delicious, 'til the last bite, which he decided to give to the dog. which would not have been a big deal, except that he realized the dog liked the cookies, and then he wanted to share my cookie with the dog too.

The glass bell with blue and purple flowers has been one of my favorites since I was a little girl.

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