Ever since I started baking, I have been turning down cheesecake recipes across the board for one singular reason – those damn cookie crusts. Too stubborn to bring store-bought cookies into my kitchen, I stealthy avoided this dessert until I finally did what I knew needed to be done all along. It was time to make some cookies.
Graham crackers, here I come.
adapted from David Lebovitz and Alice Waters
Yield: 24 cookies
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (280g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2/3 cup unsalted butter (150g)
2/3 cup granulated white sugar (133g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup fancy molasses
1 large egg
Pull the butter from the fridge and cut it into small cubes. Let the butter sit at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place the egg in a mug with warm water to quickly bring it to room temperature.
In a large bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.
When the butter has softened slightly, scrape it into to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, or until the butter is soft, smooth, and a little fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.
Add the granulated sugar and beat just until the mixture becomes smooth, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Add the vanilla, molasses, and room temperature egg. Beat on medium speed until smooth, scraping the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are combined. It is normal for the mixture to curdle slightly when the mixer has stopped. Unhook the bowl and add the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon or a small, sturdy spatula just until the dough has formed and no streaks of flour remain.
Quickly and gently roll the dough into 1oz balls, flattening each ball with the palm of your hand immediately after rolling. Place the flattened balls on a baking tray and chill them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Bake the cookies on a parchment lined tray for about 12 minutes, or until the edges have begun to darken slightly and the bottoms are a shade darker.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Ginger Cookie Tart Shell
Yield: one 9 inch tart shell
12 ginger cookies
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
Method for Fully Baked Tart Shell:
Butter a 9 inch tart shell with a removable bottom.
Crush the cookies by pressing two between the palms of your hands and grinding them together. Break up any large pieces with your fingers until all or most of the crumbs are a fine sandy texture.
Sprinkle the sugar over the crumbs and stir to combine. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter evenly over the crumbs, and then use a fork to quickly disperse the liquid and combine the ingredients. The crumbs should hold together when you squeeze them gently in your fist. If they are still a little dry, use the rest of the butter until you reach the desired consistency.
Dump the crumbs into the center of the tart shell. Using the back of your fingers, lightly disperse the crumbs evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use a straight-edged measuring cup or drinking glass to press the crumbs evenly against the tart pan. First press down the bottom of the shell, then hold your thumb against the rim of the pan and squeeze the crumbs against the side with the cup, while using your finger to press down from the top to form a solid edge.
Freeze the tart shell while you wait for the oven to preheat to 350° F, at least 20 minutes.
Bake for 12 -13 minutes, or just until the crust is dry.
Let the shell cool completely before filling. Alternately, the crust may be refrigerated and used as directed in another recipe.