Chocolate. Orange. Ginger. Wow, I am smitten already. Landing on this recipe was a stroke of good fortune.
Gingersnaps are not new to me, but I was still not prepared for the intense blast of punchy flavour and texture that these deliver. I cannot fathom a more congenial combination in a cookie than this one, a bittersweet chocolate base speckled with rich nuggets of dark chocolate, the zing of peppery fresh ginger, bursts of tangy orange flavour and the added bonus of little bits of candied ginger for extra oomph. Then, there is the perfection of the texture, chewy and crisp at the same time, a hint of toothy resistance in the bite yielding to moist tackiness in the centre.
How does this happen? Secret ingredient: Marmalade. Who knew you could toss it into a gingersnap and get this sparkling result? I further bolstered the orange flavour with some pure orange oil. Married with the chocolate, this is a cookie to swoon over. Also, ground ginger can only do so much in the flavour department. The fresh ginger in these cookies takes the ginger concept and really lets it rip, as well as enhancing the moistness and tenderness ratio. Molasses is another essential element in a gingersnap, lending its sensuous, sweet depth and irresistible caramel-like qualities.
All told, you are in for a major jolt of delight, happiness in your hot little hands. Here is the game plan:
Chocolate Orange Gingersnaps
2 cups all-purpose flour; 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder; 2 tsp. baking soda; 2 tsp. ground ginger; 1 tsp. ground cinnamon; 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg; 1/2 tsp. kosher salt; 3/4 cup unsalted butter, in pieces; 3/4 cup granulated sugar; 1/2 cup brown sugar; 1/4 cup molasses; 1/4 cup orange marmalade; 1 heaping tbsp. peeled and freshly grated fresh ginger; 1 large egg; 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract; 2 - 3 drops of pure orange oil; 5 tbsp. finely chopped candied ginger; 2 tbsp. cocoa nibs (optional); 5 tbsp. bittersweet chocolate, chopped small; 1/2 cup extra granulated sugar for rolling the cookie dough in.
Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on low speed until well blended. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and blend again. Add molasses, marmalade and grated ginger and mix to blend. Add egg, vanilla and orange oil and mix. Batter may look curdled, but that's OK. Stop and scrape sides and bottom of bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Batter will be thick.
Add candied ginger, chopped chocolate and (optional) cocoa nibs. Mix only until evenly distributed. Refrigerate the batter overnight, covered with plastic wrap, for the best results.
When ready to bake, pour the extra cup of sugar into a shallow bowl or plate. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Using two teaspoons, plop balls of dough into the sugar and roll into a neater ball, coated with sugar completely. Place balls of sugared dough at least 3-inches apart on your baking sheets and bake for about 10 - 12 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Remove cookies from the oven just when they puff up the most, about 11-12 minutes, and let them cool completely in the pan. Makes about 50 small cookies.
Let me say a few words about cocoa nibs. They are available in gourmet shops and are on the pricey side, so make sure you understand what they are before you spend the big bucks. Cocoa nibs are the edible part of the cocoa plant, a hard, almost nut-like shell that is very bittersweet and brittle, with a crackly texture and deep, unsweetened cocoa taste. They are quite bitter on their own but when encased in a sweet cookie, your mouth will marvel at the intoxicating pure essence of chocolate. If you are unsure or unwilling to use them, simply leave them out. I did. I would love to use them for special occassions but not having them at all times will not stop me from making these cookies (at all times!).
At first I thought, I would would have liked this cookie to be a bit thicker, a more handsome handful, but this thin version certainly has its charm. With an almost lacey design, it is large and festive and beautifully toned. I am giving up on my idea of a perfect orb and loving the quirky form and personality at play here.
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