I love candied ginger. (Well actually, I love ginger any old way – candied, fresh, dried and ground – you name it!) But with candied ginger, I especially love it when combined with lemon. There is just something about the duo that sends my taste buds soaring. So when I decided I wanted a ginger cookie with a lemon frosting, I thought about my old friend stem ginger.
Now for those of you who may be unfamiliar with this gift from the Gods, let me provide you with a rough guide/short definition. Stem or candied ginger comes from choice pieces of the underground stem of the ginger plant, which are then sliced, cooked with water and sugar and allowed to dry (crystallized) or preserved in sugar syrup (stem). But you will see either form (crystalized or stem) labeled synonymously. (For this recipe, you want the dried or crystalized version.)
But enough about what ginger is, and on to what it can lend to a cookie. First of all, think of your favorite ginger cookie. (And if that doesn’t make you go all over gaga, you might as well leave this recipe and go fix some other type of cookie!) But if you are thinking to yourself that nothing in the world is better than a fabulous ginger/molasses cookie, then keep reading.
But unlike a full blown, in your face ginger cookie, this is more of a sophisticated, great Aunt Martha’s kind of ginger cookie. It pairs well with the likes of fine red wine or a lovely single malt Scotch. Although not pretentious, it is not a cookie to serve as an after game treat for your kid’s softball team. This is a cookie that should be nibbled, not gobbled. Plus your children may not even like this cookie. (They probably don’t like red wine or Scotch either for that matter!)
So if some afternoon you are feeling all grown up and want to make a special occasion cookie, give this recipe a try. (And yes, I firmly believe cookies can be served as dessert for even the most sophisticated of dinner parties. Of course there are some rules to serving cookies for dessert under these conditions. The cookies must be truly delicious, attractive to look at, small in size, and pair well with coffee or after dinner liqueurs.)
And of course, you can always make these cookies even if there is no special occasion looming on your horizon. I mean why not? They are easy to prepare and last well. You can even make some to share at work. There is absolutely no one who doesn’t love walking in their break room and discovering a plate of homemade cookies just waiting to be eaten. Well, as long as you don’t work with Crankshaft, that is! (Sorry Lena.)
- 1¼ c. (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- ½ c. granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
- 2¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. ground ginger
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- ½ c. finely minced dried crystalized ginger, divided
- 4-oz. (½ pkg.) cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or more as needed
Whip 2 sticks (1 cup) of the butter and granulated sugar together until fluffy. Add vanilla. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, ground ginger, and salt. Stir in ¼ cup of the finely minced crystalized ginger ensuring that all of the small pieces are coated with flour. (Sometimes using your fingertips is the best method to break up the minced ginger and coat it with flour.) Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions at low speed. After the last addition, do not over-mix. Place dough on a long piece of plastic wrap. Using your hands, wrap the dough into the plastic gently shaping it into a round log about 1-inch wide. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Un-wrap log and slice dough a generous ¼-inch thick. Arrange slices, about 1-inch apart on parchment paper lined or lightly greased baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned on bottom, 15-18 minutes. (Do not under-bake.) Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cookies are cooling, beat cream cheese and remaining ¼ cup (½ stick) butter together until light and fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar, and beat well. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Frost cooled cookies. Lightly sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup candied ginger. (Gently push down on the ginger so that it is firmly embedded in the frosting.) Allow frosting to set completely before storing in an airtight container.