If you’re a fan of gingerbread, these burnished, chewy-in-the-middle, crunchy-on-the-corners cookies are bang-on. Often, such recipes call for a squillion different separate spices and mean you’re shelling out for a whole new spice wardrobe. Instead, Alice Zaslavsky invites you to pop out for a fresh pack of Chinese five-spice—a blend that can vary a little in ratio, but most likely contains a combination of ground star anise, fennel seeds, and cassia (or cinnamon), plus peppercorns and cloves. The ground ginger is warming and mouth-filling. Any form of warm beverage with these cookies will unlock even more heady spice; Alice’s preference is warm milk or black filter coffee. A few batches of this dough can also be used to bake and build the bougiest gingerbread house your neighbourhood has ever seen. Bonus points if you melt hard ginger candies into the window holes for stained-glass windows.
Makes 50 cookies
WHAT YOU NEED
For the cookies
⅓ cup (115g) black treacle (or molasses*)
120g (4½oz) unsalted butter
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), sifted
1 egg, beaten
2 cups (350g) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
1½ tbsp ground ginger
1½ tsp Chinese five-spice
150g (5½oz) dark brown sugar
¼ cup (55 g) coffee sugar crystals**
¼ cup (70g) crystallised ginger, finely shaved with a mandoline, coarse grater or very sharp knife
*Any dark, treacly sugar syrup will do, such as date, coconut, or palm sugar syrup.
**Coffee sugar crystals can be purchased from some supermarkets, specialty stores or your best bet: hipster cafe.
WHAT TO DO
In a large saucepan, bring the treacle and butter to the boil over high heat. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir well to combine—the mixture will foam and double in size. Set aside to cool slightly, then stir in the egg using a flexible spatula.
In a bowl, mix the flour, spices, and brown sugar until evenly distributed, then make a well in the centre. Use your flexible spatula to scrape the warm treacle mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just enough for the dry bits to make friends and get rid of lumpy bits.
Transfer to a clean work surface and shape into a ball, then halve and shape into two flat discs. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or even overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line three large baking trays with baking paper.
Lightly dust your rolling pin and work surface with flour, then roll one of the dough discs out 5mm (¼ in) thick. Using a 6cm (2½ in) cookie cutter (or a scallop-edged saucer from your nanna’s china cabinet), cut out your cookies, placing them on the baking trays 1cm (½ in) apart. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Scatter the cookies with the coffee sugar crystals and crystallised ginger. Bake for 7–8 minutes, or until light golden brown. Leave the baking trays on cooling racks to cool.
These cookies are best stored in an airtight container in the pantry, where they will keep for up to 1 week. They can also be frozen for up to 1 month—so make a double batch, if you’re in the mood.