Standing in line, eagerly waiting to get in, I could peer through the window and watch as a worker lets what looks like deep, rich chocolate ganache cascade over equally decadent layers of chocolate cake. Witnessing such finesse, I knew I was in for a treat. A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I made a trip into San Francisco to visit the De Young Museum, and made a side trip to a bakery (the bakery was more of a highlight than the museum!). From the outside, you would not even know what it was--there are no signs, and it looks like an average quaint cafe characteristic of San Francisco, but once inside, it was unmistakable where we were. The glass case full of enticing pastries, cakes, cookies and breads, announced loud and clear that were at Tartine(!). As in, the Tartine, one of those elite bakeries that has a best-selling, award-winning cookbook bearing its name. The worst part of the experience was having to choose what to order--I wanted to try everything! In the end, I opted for a chocolate hazelnut tart, glazed gingerbread, and olive bread. I was not disappointed. And after one bite out of the gingerbread, I knew I had to find the recipe.
I am always on the hunt for the consummate gingerbread cookie recipe--one that would produce the perfect balance of taste and texture. I like my gingerbread cookies to be soft and chewy (though still holding its shape), and sweet and spicey (but one flavor cannot overtake the other). Tartine's gingerbread was everything I could have dreamed of in a gingerbread cookie. Did I just say dream?! You could say I'm a little enthusiastic about this gingerbread cookie. Searching for the recipe turned out to be easy--it was in the Tartine cookbook! But I had doubts about it--I could not believe they would they reveal their trade secrets.
The original Soft Glazed Gingerbread recipe from Tartine calls for some surprising ingredients. Freshly ground black pepper?! Cloves and cinammon are more typical spices for gingerbread, but black pepper? This made me hesitate, and I scaled back a little on how much to use. This was also the first gingerbread cookie recipe I've seen that calls for cocoa powder. Though it is not uncommon for recipes to use corn syrup (as the original Tartine recipe here does), I have an aversion to using it in my baking because of all the bad press regarding health effects it has received. In general, I prefer to use organic and more "wholesome" ingredients when possible, and I had to find a substitute that could work. I considered using honey instead, but when it came time to mixing the dough, I realized I was out! After looking through my pantry and refrigerator again, I only had maple syrup, so maple syrup it was. Instead of blackstrap molasses, I used a light molasses from Brer Rabbit, and instead of regular salt, I used sea salt. One bite of my own gingerbread cookie, and I knew this was it--this was the end of my search!
For my last post before Christmas, this is my gift to you, the perfect gingerbread cookie recipe. May you have a wonderful and joyous Christmas!
(Adapted from the recipe for Tartine's Soft Glazed Gingerbread)
Tartine uses a patterned rolling pin to roll out the gingerbread, which gives the cookie an antique feel, and cuts them into sizable rectangles. I don't have a patterned rolling pin, so I cut the gingerbread out in the shape of teddy bears. This recipe makes about 32 teddy bear shaped cookies, each about 4".
1 cup (or 2 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature
4/5 cup of granulated sugar
3-3/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
4 t. ground ginger
1-1/2 t. ground cloves
2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. sea salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1/2 cup light molasses
2 T. maple syrup
Mix together the dry ingredients (except the granulated sugar) using a wire whisk to remove any lumps. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium to low until the butter is fluffy. Cream in the sugar. Scrape down the side of the bowl, then mix in the egg. Continue mixing on medium to low, adding the molasses and maple syrup. Slowly add in the flour mixture, until the ingredients are combined and the dough begins to form and stick together. Divide the dough in half and flatten each into a disk about 1 to 2 inches thick. Wrap the pieces of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When you're ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 350F degrees, and line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper, roll out each disk to about 1/4" thickness, and cut out the dough into your desired shapes with cookie cutters. Transfer each cookie shape with a spatula onto the cookie sheet, leaving about 1" between each cookie. Bake on the top third rack of the oven for about 10 minutes, but this may vary depending on the size of each cookie. Cookies are done when the surface is smooth and slightly firm. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.
1 cup powdered sugar
4 t. water
Using a wire whisk, combine the powdered sugar with the water. If the mixture is too thick, add a little bit of water, 1/2 t. at a time. The glaze should be on the thick side, but thin enough to be brushed over the cookies.
After the cookies have cooled completely, brush the glaze over the cookies and allow the glaze to dry. Store the cookies in an airtight container.