I think gingersnaps are the perfect cookie: crunchy, sweet, and a little spicy. I have been known to hoard Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps in case of emergency. As a home baker, I’ve experimented in making all sorts of European varieties of ginger-spiced biscuits, from pepparkakor, or Swedish ginger cookies, to Basler leckerli, a hard, Swiss gingerbread. Unsurprisingly, ginger cookies as we know them today trace their roots to northern Europe in the Middle Ages, according to The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets by Darra Goldstein, and cities and regions on the continent are renowned for their own particular type of gingerbread.
It has been established that I love jaggery and I continue to experiment with this unrefined sugar found in most South Asian kitchens. Most recently, I made a jaggery caramel to accompany a blood orange and Cara Cara navel orange upside-down cake—making for an unexpectedly earthy, yet citrusy, dessert.
I also love tamarind. For the uninitiated, tamarind is the tart, acidic fruit of a tropical shade-giving tree. Like jaggery, this ingredient is a South Asian pantry staple and its pulp’s sourness makes it an essential ingredient in everything from daal to chutney. As with jaggery, I have also brought tamarind’s familiar and complex flavors to bear on Western-style baking and dessert-making, from peach, ginger, and tamarind focaccia to mini date-and-tamarind bundt cakes to salted tamarind caramel, which I have then drizzled over popcorn or ice cream or poured on the aforementioned bundt cakes.
These three loves—gingersnaps, jaggery, tamarind—come together in these tamarind- and jaggery-forward cookies, an homage to my mother’s tamarind chutney. This is, admittedly, an unusual source of inspiration for a confection, but trust me! There are as many ways to make tamarind chutney as there are home cooks, but our family recipe calls for tamarind, jaggery, and garam masala (among other ingredients), and all three feature prominently in this cookie.
Ginger-flavored baked goods are often associated with winter and the end-of-year holidays, but these cookies are perfect for spring. The tamarind’s fruitiness not only brightens the ginger, but also offers just a hint of pucker-inducing sourness. The jaggery imparts a mild saltiness as well as an earthy nuttiness. The garam masala—made by dry-roasting and grinding cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, black pepper, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds—supercharges the gingersnaps’ spiciness, creating an all-around complex treat.
Makes 40 - 45 cookies
(Note: I prefer following this recipe by weight measurements, because they’re more precise. But for those without a kitchen scale, I’ve included the volume measurements as well.)
- 170 g (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
- 210 g (1 ¼ cups) powdered jaggery, sifted (see note)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 80 g (¼ cup) molasses
- 2 heaping Tbsp. tamarind paste (see note)
- 330 g (2 ⅝ cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- Pinch of fleur de sel
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. garam masala (see note)
- 50 g (½ cup) granulated sugar, for rolling
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salts, ginger, and garam masala. Whisk to combine, then set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and jaggery until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes on medium speed). Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and mix to combine (about 1 minute on medium speed).
In a small bowl, combine the molasses and tamarind paste. Add to butter mixture and mix to combine (about 1 minute on medium speed).
Reduce mixer speed to low, then add the dry ingredients in 3 installments, scraping down sides of bowl between additions, until combined (about 1-2 minutes).
Transfer the dough to a resealable glass or plastic container and chill thoroughly, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Put granulated sugar in a small bowl. Portion and shape dough into 20-gram (1 Tbsp.) balls. Drop each into the bowl of sugar and roll to coat. Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between each.
Bake until the cookies are golden underneath but still quite tender (they will firm up as they cool), 13-15 minutes. Let cool 2-3 minutes on baking sheets and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. The cookies will crisp as they cool. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.
- As I learned, sifted cane-derived powdered jaggery, which is available in most South Asian grocery stores and online, is easier to measure and cream than the jaggery sold in a block, and more suitable for use in cakes and cookies.
- I make tamarind paste from blocks of tamarind pulp, but ready-made paste is available online. Avoid purchasing tamarind concentrate; it has a molasses-like consistency, and is less fruity in flavor.
- I roast and grind my own garam masala, which is heavy on the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Any store-bought garam masala can be substituted, though it might impart additional flavor notes, depending on its exact spice blend.