Chewy ginger cookies to give as gifts (if they last that long)

Easy to make and more-ishly tempting

Chewy ginger nut cookies. Photograph: Harry Weir

Chewy ginger nut cookies. Photograph: Harry Weir

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The weekend is the perfect time to make a batch of home-baked cookies. My kids enjoy taking one to school for their Friday “treat day”. In December, I always love making ginger cookies and I rely on Delia Smith’s lovely recipe for gingerbread biscuits. I pull out all my Christmas cookie cutters and decorate the biscuits with white icing and hang them from the tree or give them away as gifts.

My ginger cookies aren’t quite like Delia’s gingerbread biscuits which have a distinct “snap” and longer shelf life. Fresh out of the oven, these cookies are gorgeous mainly because of their distinctively home-baked, chewy consistency, just like the best American cookies and perfect for that weekend cookie jar.

Dough balls

Cookies are fun and simple to bake with kids who love nothing more than rolling dough balls. Their reward is tasting them freshly baked and golden while still hot after a brief spell in the oven. This is what childhood memories are made of and the festive, heady scent of ginger in your kitchen offers its own sensual reward. Ginger has lots of health benefits including claims it can calm digestion, which may be another way to combat over-indulgence this month.

If our food photographer’s reaction to tasting these cookies is anything to go by, they’re irresistible. Adding chopped pieces of stem ginger will give a more intense ginger flavour, but the kids preferred the texture without. For anyone suffering from a baking addiction, a chewy cookie will quickly satisfy that craving and it’s never too late to start baking by dipping your toe in with an easy recipe like this.

A quick cookie lesson will demystify what makes a cookie soft and chewy as opposed to hard and crisp. The star ingredients are caster sugar, fat, eggs and flour. Overbeating the mixtures and adding more egg than necessary can give a “cakey” texture. I don’t chill the dough in advance of baking and I always bake on parchment so the cookies don’t stick to the tray and are easy to transfer to a wire rack. Moisture is the secret to chewy cookies, if they are cooked for too long, they will dry out. This lovely buttery dough freezes brilliantly so you can whip them into the oven and serve with a cuppa when people drop in for a casual visit this Christmas.

Chewy ginger cookies

Makes 25-30 cookies

Ingredients

300g self-raising flour

pinch salt

200g caster sugar

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking powder

140g butter

½ tsp vanilla extract

3 level tbsp golden syrup

1 egg yolk

zest of 1 orange

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

2. Sieve together the flour, salt, sugar, ground ginger and baking powder.

3. In a saucepan, heat the butter, vanilla essence and golden syrup, set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

4. Pour the syrup mixture into the bowl of sieved ingredients.

5. With a wooden spoon, mix in the egg yolk and orange zest to form a dough (add a tiny dash of milk of you feel it is too dry to form balls).

6. With your hands bring the dough together to form 25-30 walnut sized balls of the mixture and arrange well spaced out onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper (leave at least 5cm between each as they do spread). Flatten slightly by pressing gently with the palm of your hand.

7. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or slightly golden around the edges but still a bit soft in the centre.

8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire rack. Once cooled store in an airtight container.

Variation: Lemon zest can be added instead of orange zest. Mix in seasonal spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice for more festive flavours. Achieve darker coloured cookies by substituting caster sugar with brown sugar.

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