Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Cookies: Soft Ginger Sandwiches with Creamy Ginger-Orange Filling

by Darla

I have to be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of most traditional Thanksgiving desserts, like pumpkin or pecan pie. In fact, I’m not really a fan of pies, in general. There, I said it. I don’t (usually) like pie. In most cases, it’s the texture (this is normally where people look at me like I’ve lost my mind). But I just don’t like cooked fruit, and I know I’m not alone.

I know, I know…not all pies have fruit in them (like pecan pie, which, for the record, I don’t like because of the pecans), but the majority do. And, for the record, I like a lot of the pies out there that don’t have fruit. That’s why, every year, I like making less than traditional desserts for Thanksgiving. Of course, even though I like to make something different, I still like for it to have those warm Fall flavors that make Thanksgiving so memorable.

This year, I decided to make a cookie. I wanted to make ginger snaps because I’ve never made them before, and they have such a wonderful, spicy flavor. Then I stumbled onto a recipe that made ginger snaps into sandwich cookies, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do! Except, I had an issue or two.

First, my ginger snaps weren’t snapping. That is to say, they baked up all flat and ugly, with no crackling or rise. Crackling, by the way, is what I say when a cookie cracks on top while baking, like a snickerdoodle. Ginger snaps are supposed to crackle. Mine weren’t. They tasted great, but they looked so sad, and their texture was off.

I tried a few techniques to fix them, most importantly adding more flour, but nothing was the right fix. First of all, I looked up the definition for ginger snaps to find out what the expectations are for them. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t trying to make ginger snaps at all.
Ginger snaps (called ginger biscuits and ginger nuts internationally), are small, crisp, twice baked cookies. That’s not what I was aiming for. I wanted a larger, softer cookie that was crisp outside, while being soft and chewy inside. I was just trying to make regular ginger cookies…no snap involved.

That’s when I ended up going back to the crackling (that should have been happening) and how snickerdoodles do the same, and have that same crisp outside, but chewy inside that I was aiming for. Why not work from my snickerdoodle recipe and edit the spices to suit a ginger flavor?
That ended up being the perfect solution. The cookies came out sweet and spicy, with the perfect amount of light crunchiness on the bottoms and edges, while the center was still soft with just a bit of chewiness. Now I just needed a yummy filling for them! I went back to the recipe I’d originally found, and adapted the filling recipe to what I wanted.

The star ingredients today are ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, eggs, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, vanilla, all-purpose flour, sugar, shortening, unsalted butter (softened), brown sugar, and molasses.

I’ve mentioned before that I prefer not to use shortening in my baking, if possible, but it is occasionally beneficial. Mixed with butter in cookies, it adds too the texture, keeping them a little soft and chewy.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves; set aside.

In another large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and shortening together until light and fluffy. Beat in both sugars until combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then stir in the molasses and vanilla until combined. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture into the mixing bowl and beat until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl, as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll the cookie dough into balls and coat with sugar before placing them on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown and the tops crackle. Transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting or serving.

These cookies are wonderful and delicious, as-is. They’re perfectly spiced, and the texture is wonderful! You certainly don’t need to do anything else to these at all. However, if you want to dress them up even more, then you can’t pass up filling them with creamy ginger-orange frosting!

All you need for the frosting is softened cream cheese, unsalted butter (softened), orange zest, vanilla, salt, and confectioners’ sugar. In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Stir in the vanilla, orange zest, and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and beat until just combined. Add more sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until the filling reaches a soft, but slightly firm consistency. If it gets too dry, add small amounts of orange juice to soften it up.

Once cooled, frost the bottoms of the cookies with about one teaspoon of frosting each.

Press the frosted sides together to make sandwiches.

This frosting takes these cookies over the top! As delicious as they are without any filling at all, they take a great step up with the addition of sweet, creamy filling! It’s the perfect partner to the cookies. Its mild sweetness, with just a hint of bitterness from the zest, compliments the spiciness of the cookies beautifully! Another great thing? The dough for these can be made and frozen well ahead of time, so you don’t have to work as hard on Thanksgiving day! Enjoy!

Soft Ginger Cookies
with Ginger-Orange Frosting
Makes about 3 dozen cookies, or 18 sandwiches

Ingredients

FOR THE COOKIES
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Additional sugar for rolling cookies

FOR THE FILLING
1/4 cup (4 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

To make the cookies: In a large bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves; set aside.

In another large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and shortening together until light and fluffy. Beat in both sugars until combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then stir in the molasses and vanilla until combined. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture into the mixing bowl and beat until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl, as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpat mats or parchment paper.

Roll a 1 tablespoon portion of dough into a ball and coat it in the extra sugar. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets, about 2-inches apart, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are turning golden brown and tops are cracking. Allow to cool on sheets before transferring to wire cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting or serving.

To make the filling: In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Stir in the vanilla, orange zest, ginger, and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and beat until just combined. Add more sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until the filling reaches a soft, but slightly firm consistency. If it gets too dry, add small amounts of orange juice to soften it up.

Filling recipe adapted from here.
Cookie recipe by Darla

 

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Blue-Eyed Bakers November 22, 2010 at 9:49 am

Goodness these sound fabulous! For Thanksgiving or anytime! Love the idea of ginger with the creamy orange filling…yummy!

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2 ABowlOfMush November 22, 2010 at 11:26 am

These look fantastic!! So delicious!

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3 Anonymous November 22, 2010 at 11:52 am

i must comment on you not liking pie… may I be bold enough to say that it might be cause you have not had a properly made fruit pie? and pecan pecan pies are hard to make a lot of people say all you have to do is mix the stuff together. wrong! the nuts have to be hand cracked and they cannot be paper shell. the best pecans are the hardest to get to. also biting into a whole pecan is like yuk, they must be chopped and roasted. the difference in flavor is crazy! I am very excited this year because we haven't had pecans in about 3 years because of the drought. anyway you have just met a pie freak I have gone around looking for a decent fruit pie but have not been able to find just one! pies are best home made. please I beg you, keep an open mind about pie and realize that good pies are rare nowadays. BTW I love your blog and check it every day. Thanks!

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4 Scarletta Bakes November 22, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I love the idea of updating classic Thanksgiving desserts. Pie or no, sometimes a new twist on an old favorite can be fun for everyone.

These cookies look beautiful!

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5 Aimee November 22, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I don't like fruit pie either… I do, however, enjoy chocolate silk pie, fresh strawberry pie, fresh peach pie and the like. These cookies look amazing. My husband and I are supposed to bring a dessert for Thanksgiving this year and this is going to be it! I am so excited!

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6 bttrflybabydoll November 22, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Oh my! Those look awesome!

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7 Candi November 23, 2010 at 8:51 am

Those look amazing! I love sandwich cookies and this is a bonus with the spicy flavors!

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8 the cookie jar November 24, 2010 at 11:32 pm

oh gosh – this reminds me of my local icecream store. They always serve their eat in icecreams in big tall cocktail glasses with little ginger snap cookies stuck in the sides of the icecream. Instead of the frosting you should make (or purchase :) ) some vanilla bean icecream and make delicious icecream sandwiches. so much better than traditional chocolate ones. :)

nevertheless, om nom nom

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9 JRaehusker November 25, 2010 at 8:29 am

Can the shortening be substituted for margarine or more butter? I live in England and shortening is not readily available.

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10 Darla November 25, 2010 at 9:21 am

@JRaehusker – Yes, you can definitely substitute butter or margarine for the shortening. Your cookies may be ever-so-slightly less chewy, with a tiny bit more crisp to them, but they will essentially be the same.

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11 Anna February 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm

I hate the pie crust. BLECH!!! Is there any really good never failing pie crust you can make?
AND THOSE COOKIES? AMAZING!!!

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12 Nicole November 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm

The title states that there is a “creamy ginger-orange filling” yet there is no ginger in the filling….?

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13 Cathleen November 22, 2011 at 12:16 am

I just made these special cookies for Thanksgiving. They are sooooo good. Thank you for the creative recipe. I’ll make them for Christmas too! Yum!

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