Archive for: crystallized ginger
There are many ways to get a spicy, gingery flavor into baked goods. One of the easiest is to add dried, ground ginger right into your batter or dough, just as you might add in ground cinnamon or any other dried spice. This adds a lot of flavor, but if you want even more of a gingery bite, opt for grating in fresh ginger, which has a stronger flavor. My favorite way to increase the ginger flavor in a baked good or other sweet recipe is to add in candied, or crystallized, ginger.
Candied ginger is thinly sliced ginger that has been cooked in a sugar syrup until it becomes sweet and tender. It retains its gingery bite, but it takes on a sweetness that ginger just doesn’t have by itself. Once prepared, the ginger can be used as it is, or it can be dipped in sugar to add a crisp, sweet coating. After it has been cooked, the ginger is easy to slice and can be diced up with a knife and added to recipes. Unlike fresh ginger, which can have a flavor that is a little too aggressive for some cookie (and other sweet) recipes in big chunks, adding chunks of candied ginger to a cake or cookie can add a lot of spice tempered by just the right amount of sweetness.
I always assumed that candied ginger was ginger that was simply cooked in syrup and crystallized ginger was the type that was dipped in sugar. Some producers label their products that way, but it seems as though the two terms can be used almost interchangeably. The products can definitely be used interchangeably in recipes. I’ll still use “crystallized ginger” in my recipes because I like that extra sweetness and crunch that that sugary coating adds to the spicy bite of the ginger.
Gingersnaps, whether you’re talking about the crisp cookies or the chewy variety, are a classic holiday cookie. Sweet, spicy and oh-so-flavorful, they’re a great addition to a holiday plate and go well with a cup of tea when the weather gets cold. The only thing they’re missing is some chocolate, so there are some chocoholics that pass up the gingersnaps and opt for ordinary chocolate chip cookies even around the holidays. This is an easy fix, though, so I made up some Chocolate Gingersnap Cookies to add to my holiday cookie rotation this year.
The cookies have cocoa powder in the dough and some chopped up chocolate chunks mixed in with the candied ginger that studs these cookies. This means that they really have a well balanced chocolate flavor to them. Fortunately, they are also just spicy enough that the gingersnap spices have no problem shining through in the finished cookie. The candied ginger actually goes a long way here, since every bite is gets a little extra kick of ginger flavor to it.
These have a chewy, moist center and a nice crisp exterior to them. They’re good warm from the oven, when the chocolate is still soft, and they will keep well for about two days. I like to use coarse sugar for rolling because it makes the “crust” just a little bit crunchier, but if you don’t have any regular sugar will work just as well.
It has been a long time since I made a batch of gingerbread pancakes, and an even longer time since I posted about them! I am always tweaking pancake recipes and, while the first batch from a few years ago is still good, a couple of changes make them even better. Gingerbread really needs to have some molasses to give it a good gingerbread flavor, but it also needs some spices to give it that warmth that we expect from gingerbread.
I kept these pancakes simple, with just cinnamon, ground ginger and some nutmeg in the batter. Freshly ground nutmeg is always the most flavorful, but preground will work if you have none fresh. My favorite part – aside from the maple syrup that I poured all over these – is the chopped candied ginger (Ginger People’s Ginger Chips work perfectly here) that is mixed into the pancake batter. They really add a nice spicy sweetness and are a pleasant surprise when your bite into a little piece! I sprinkled some extra on top of the pancakes to mix in with the maple syrup, as well.
There is something about molasses cookies that gives you a warm, snuggly feeling when you eat them. Part of this comes from the fact that these cookies are usually seasonal treats, baked in warm kitchens when it’s cool outside. Part comes from the chewiness of the cookies, which allows you to slowly savor each bite and take your time as you eat. The rest of this feeling can probably be attributed to the fact that the cookies are often well-spiced and offer a lot more depth in the flavor department than the average cookie.
I know I like to use quite a variety of spices when I bake up a batch. These spicy cookies include cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and black pepper, and get an extra kick from some diced candied ginger mixed into the batter. Molasses has such a dark, sweet flavor that it is a good background for all the spices; the molasses flavor doesn’t get lost in a heavily spiced cookie, but it isn’t overwhelming because there are so many other flavors to balance it out. I added a touch of honey to the cookies just to add a touch of lightness to the overall flavor. You can simply use a bit more molasses if you want your cookies to be a bit darker.
When these come out of the oven, the cookies have a wonderfully crisp surface and a soft, chewy interior. The dough is rolled in sugar before baking and it is this sugar layer that crisps up in the oven. After storage, the cookies become softer and chewier. Molasses and honey help the cookies to stay fresh longer and moist longer than many other cookies, so you’ll be able to savory these slowly – if the spicy-sweet combination of the cookies doesn’t keep you reaching for more right away.
To give my cookies their finished look, I rolled the dough in a mixture of raw, turbinado and muscovado sugars, rather than just using plain/raw sugar. Brown or muscovado sugar alone is not ideal for rolling because of the way it packs down so easily. They do add some extra flavor compared to other sugars, however, so just mix them with something a little less sticky to make things easier.
While I generally prefer my muffins to have fruit or nuts in them, I do like a muffin with a bit of chocolate in it from time to time as more of a treat. Chocolate chips are always on hand and are so easy to stir into a batch of muffins to get a chocolate fix early in the day. In my kitchen, I actually have more than a few kinds of chocolate chips at any given time and chose dark chocolate to be the star of this batch of muffins. I added in some ground and candied ginger to give the muffins’ flavor a little more depth.
Candied ginger and dark chocolate go very well together. The ginger has a hot, spicy taste that is curbed by the crunchy layer of sugar surrounding it. The sugar from the ginger also serves to mellow the dark chocolate a bit. I like to buy crystallized ginger chips to use for baking because of their convenience and high sugar-to-ginger ratio, but the muffins will turn out to be equally tasty if you buy your ginger in larger bits and have to chop it yourself. Make sure the ginger pieces are fairly small, perhaps only half the size of the chocolate chips, to get the best distribution in the batter.
The finished muffins are beautiful to look at. The batter is thick and can be heaped into the muffin tin, rising well above the top of the pan. This allows the muffins to rise high and end up with beautiful, bakery-style muffin tops. These muffins are absolutely best when they are fresh from the oven and still slightly warm. The cake is soft and fluffy, the ginger is tender and sweet, and – best of all – the chocolate is slightly melty. Delicious, and just a bit different than your standard muffin fare. They do keep well, but it wouldn’t hurt to pop them back into the oven for 3-4 minutes at 350F (or even to put them in the microwave, if that’s all you have) to get the full effect of the chocolate.