What are Ginger Cookies?

Sheri Cyprus

Ginger cookies are round dessert treats made from gingerbread dough. Gingerbread men cut-outs may also be considered a variety of ginger cookie. Gingersnaps, which are an extra-crispy cookie made from gingerbread dough, are another of the popular types of ginger cookies.

Many ginger cookie recipes call for nutmeg and other spices.
Many ginger cookie recipes call for nutmeg and other spices.

The basic gingerbread dough recipe uses the ingredients and method common for making many other types of cookies with one exception. The major difference is that ginger cookies are spicy in their flavor. Ground or crystallized ginger as well as a little pepper set these cookies apart from most other kinds. Ginger cookie recipes differ in the spices used, but many call for nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and/or allspice. These spices, plus ginger and pepper, are usually blended in with the other, more typical dry ingredients such as flour, baking soda and salt.

Ginger extract is made from raw ginger and can be used to flavor cookies.
Ginger extract is made from raw ginger and can be used to flavor cookies.

As with other cookie dough recipes, the dry ingredients are initially kept separate from the sugar and fat. Butter or oil is creamed together with brown sugar in many ginger cookie recipes. Molasses, vanilla and beaten eggs are then typically stirred into the creamed mixture. The dry ingredients can then be added gradually to the sugar and molasses mixture so that the baker can ensure the dough becomes well blended after each addition. Some bakers like to use white sugar and light rather than dark molasses when making ginger cookies so that a lighter colored dough is created; others prefer a darker, richer looking result.

Once the cookie dough is made, it's ready to be formed into balls and flattened with the bottom of a glass, or rolled out and cut with gingerbread men shaped cutters. The thickness the ginger cookie dough balls are flatted out to, as well as how long they are baked, help determine their outcome. Ginger snaps should be quite thin and baked long enough to be very crispy in texture. They are often smaller in size than the more cake-like gingerbread men and round ginger cookies.

A soft, cake-like ginger cookie recipe may call for a slightly drier dough. When this type of dough is formed into balls and flattened, it will often create a crackle top look after baking. These kinds of ginger cookies may include a sprinkling of powdered, or icing, sugar that is placed on them after baking. Another method is to roll the ginger cookie dough balls in granulated white sugar before flattening and baking to create a crunchy outer layer.

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