Years ago I took a job at a school that was slightly over an hour’s drive from my house. The drive wasn’t particularly brutal in the first few weeks, as I got to enjoy the foliage as it developed, and the drive was through mostly back roads where the scenery was quite pleasant. I knew, however, this would quickly change as the weather started to deteriorate and the roads would become the nasty variety that accompany charming New Hampshire weather in the winter.
The first few weeks of the job were good as I came to know my students, the role, and the other faculty. Then one afternoon before a faculty meeting, and not too long before Parent’s Night, Mrs. Sylvia, as she came to be known in our house, appeared at my classroom door, and kindly offered for me to stay with her that night, since we wouldn’t be wrapping up Parent’s Night until well after 8pm, and she thought it was silly for me to drive the distance home only to turn around and come back early the next morning.
I gladly took her up on the offer, and it struck up a beautiful friendship where I ended up staying over at her house at least once a week throughout the next few years that I worked at the school, even when the weather was good.
Mrs. Sylvia loved to cook and bake; she was the Home Economics teacher who’d managed to keep this tradition alive with some pretty inventive school programs she’d developed that carried her Home Economics career into the 21st century. When I came to her house, I was immediately in awe of it; it was one of those beautiful old houses that exudes the grace and charm of a bygone building era. It had elements of Victorian charm with little nooks here and there and big kitchen that housed a large table. It might be considered quaint to some, but it immediately became a home away from home for me.
Sylvia brought back the hospitality of a bygone era, where there was always a cup of tea and cookies available upon entrance. Always a laugh. Always a story…always time for a friend.
On nicer days, we’d go for walks through town, and Mrs. Sylvia would tell me about the town’s glory days, she’d show me where she grew up and would hang out, and gave me glimpses into her past that made her into the strong woman she is today. She was 16 years older than me, but loved on me like I was her daughter, and when she met my children, started to love on them like they were her own. We came to be pretty good friends over time, and I’d visit her in the summer with my kids because she had a pool. And it gave her a reason to bake.
This was the first and only cookie she’d ever make for my kids because they raved about it so much the first time she made it, and they loved Mrs. Sylvia for it.
Years later, they still talk about Mrs. Sylvia, remember the trips we’d make up there in the summer to visit with her and swim in her backyard pool. They loved her home cooked meals, but could never get enough of her Gingersnap cookies.
This recipe is one of those simple, super-fast, old-fashioned kinda recipes that you’d expect to find in your grandma’s house. I don’t know the cookbook Mrs. Sylvia pulled it from, but she had some fabulous old cookbooks, likely ones she’d inherited from her own grandmother.
And I just bet Mrs. Sylvia is making these cookies nowadays for her own beautiful grandchildren.
When we set out to make these, my daughter suggested adding some grated ginger to add more flair to the cookie, and my eyes almost bugged out. No! You cannot mess with the original Mrs. Sylvia’s gingersnap!, I kinda yelled.
But my daughter might be onto something there. It’d add another layer of spice to this cookie.
A Few Notes on Making These:
These are not a snappy gingersnaps – they are soft and chewy.
When you beat the wet ingredients together, make sure you beat them for at least 3 minutes until they look fluffy. This will ensure all the ingredients are well incorporated:
The recipe calls for teaspoon sized cookies, and I used a small cookie scoop for this:
I baked them for 10 minutes, as called for in the recipe, and this was the end result. These cookies will not spread because there isn’t butter in them. I suppose you could go 1/2 butter, 1/2 shortening. The bottoms were a bot too browned for my likings:
I increased to a tablespoon sized scoop, and then flattened the cookies a bit with the bottom of a glass. I liked the appearance much better, and when baked for 10 minutes, the bottoms weren’t as crispy (even though they look it in the picture).
Pure love. Pure nostalgia to a bygone era. Pure friendship. Love you, Mrs. Sylvia.
Mrs. Sylvia's Gingersnaps
An old-fashioned recipe that gives you a soft, chewy mildly flavored gingersnap.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup dark molasses
- 1 egg
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- additional sugar for rolling
Mix 1 cup sugar, the shortening, molasses, and egg together for about 3 minutes until fluffy.
Sift flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt into sugar mixture.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Heat oven to 375F, and shape dough into rounded teaspoonfuls. Dip tops into sugar. Press down on cookie with bottom of a glass if you'd like a flatter cookie.
Place cookies, sugared side up, about 3 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake until edges are set - centers will be soft - 10-12 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet.