If you’re even a tiny bit Scandinavian, Anna’s Ginger Thins are probably familiar to you – the crisp spice cookies that go swimmingly well with hot coffee. They were a favorite of my grandmother and her sisters, a special treat she only bought during the holidays, along with angel food candy.
For some reason I was intrigued by the rectangular red box they came in, with a shiny clear window letting you peek inside just enough to spark your curiosity. I remember thinking of them as a grown up Christmas cookie. They weren’t gussied up with frosting or sprinkles, glitter or chocolate. And they certainly weren’t chewy or fudgy.
Instead they were light and airy, thin and crisp. Full of all the spices that signaled Santa would be coming soon – a hefty dose of ginger, paired with cinnamon and cloves. I had all those qualities in mind when making these Five-Spice Ginger Thins, trying to create a gluten-free version of the cookies that have so many memories attached to them.
Tradition holds that you are to put one of the delicate cookies on the palm of your hand, make a wish and tap it gently with your finger. If it breaks into three pieces, your wish would be granted.
After painting dainty white chocolate lines on them, I placed one in my hand and wished that my grandma was there with me. To my surprise, the thin cookie with my special touch of five-spice powder did break into three pieces. (I love the deep aromatics and flavor that it brings – sweet tones of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, savory fennel seeds and a bit of bite from Szechwan pepper.)
And I looked at the broken cookie in my hand, I felt like she really was seated at my table, exclaiming in her German accent, “Gol darn, you’re a lucky girl!” I sure miss her, but the memories will never fade.
This makes a pretty big batch of cookies because ideally you’ll roll them out to 1/8 inch. It’s great for cookie parties, or in this case the 4th annual Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap. It was my first year participating and so much fun! The swap brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. You get paired with three other food friends, send them a dozen delicious homemade cookies & get three different boxes of cookies in the mail for yourself.
All in the name of charity – Cookies for Kids Cancer, a national non-profit committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer. If you’re a blogger I encourage you to sign up next year! I was lucky enough to get GF Sweet Potato Snickerdoodle Shortbread Cookies from Amber, Triple Chocolate Fudge Cookies from Maddie, and Almond Crescents from Christina. Let’s just say it was a sweet mail week.
Hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season! xo
adapted from these Five-Spice Ginger Cookies
makes 3 dozen cookies
305 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Flour*)
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter – slightly melted so that you can stir it, the color and consistency of softened ice cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup sugar (I use organic evaporated cane sugar)
1 large egg
melted white chocolate for decorating
*if your gluten-free flour blend does not have xanthun gum, add 1/2 teaspoon to it.
Whisk together flour, five-spice powder, ginger, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
To a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, add honey, butter, egg, and sugar and blend until mixture is thick and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture and blend on low speed just until dough comes together and there are no flour streaks. Form dough into a disk and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 6 hours or overnight to allow flavors to develop.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Quarter dough. Keeping remaining 3 pieces wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper with a lightly floured rolling pin to 1/8 inch thick. Keep dusting flour on top of dough and rolling pin to keep it frm sticking. (If dough becomes too soft to roll out, chill on wax paper until firm.) Use cookie cutter to make shapes, but do not attempt to remove. First, place sheet in freezer with the dough cut in shapes for 5 minutes, then remove and peel away scraps. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, 12 per sheet.
Bake cookies until slightly puffed and a shade darker, about 7-8 minutes. This time can vary depending on the thickness so be sure to watch your first pan closely. Cool 5 minutes on sheet. (If your cookies are a little thicker and puff up, that’s okay. They will will flatten slightly as they cool.)
While first batch is baking, roll out and cut another batch, arranging cookies on second lined sheet. Proceed in same manner, then gather scraps and chill until dough is firm enough to reroll, about 10 minutes. Make more cookies with scraps (reroll scraps only once) and remaining pieces of dough, then bake when oven is free.
You can leave them as is (best for shipping) or after cookies have cooled, use a toothpick or paintbrush to paint white chocolate around the stars. To speed things up, drizzle the white chocolate very lightly onto each one.
For more Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies, check out these recipes: