We were intrigued by original recipes for fairy gingerbread, a cookie popular in the 19th century; with no eggs, no leavener, and batter spread paper-thin on an inverted baking sheet, these cookies were unlike ordinary gingerbread. The cookies we tried melted in our mouths—but they were also bland, so we tackled the flavor issue first. A bit of vanilla extract and salt helped boost the warm ginger notes, but these cookies were still lacking in spice. Doubling the ground ginger called for in most recipes added a much-needed kick, but it made the cookies taste like a dusty spice cupboard. We cut back a little and toasted the ginger to bring out its flavor. Adding fresh grated ginger to the batter added even more intense ginger flavor. While these cookies traditionally lack leavener, a little baking soda helped them retain their airy crispness after baking. These cookies were indeed dainty as a fairy. Use baking sheets that measure at least 15 by 12 inches. Don’t be disconcerted by the scant amount of batter: You really are going to spread the batter very thin. Use the edges of the parchment paper as your guide, covering the entire surface thinly and evenly. For easier grating, freeze a 2-inch piece of peeled ginger for 30 minutes and then use a rasp-style grater.
- Yield: 60 cookies
- 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (4⅜ ounces) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 9 tablespoons packed (4 ounces) light brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup whole milk, room temperature
- Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 2 rimless baking sheets (or inverted rimmed baking sheets) with vegetable oil spray and cover each with 15 by 12-inch sheet parchment paper. Heat ground ginger in small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and toasted ginger in medium bowl.
- Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add fresh ginger and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions; scrape down bowl as needed.
- Evenly spread ¾ cup batter to cover parchment on each prepared sheet (batter will be very thin). Bake until deep golden brown, 16 to 20 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Immediately score cookies into 3 by 2-inch rectangles. Let cool completely, about 20 minutes. Using tip of paring knife, separate cookies along score marks and serve.