The Bake: Miss Ellie's Ginger Crinkles
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
We all have scents and tastes that transport us to a specific time or place, or even to a person. For me, at Christmas, it has always been my grandma’s ginger crinkles.
When I called my mom, Vikki, to ask if I could share my grandmother’s ginger crinkle recipe with the world (or, you know, the five people who will read this because we’re just getting off the ground), I was actually surprised by her response—though I probably shouldn’t have been.
“Of course,” she said. “Recipes are meant to be shared. An amazing dish or an incredible dessert shouldn’t be a family secret.”
When I think about my family, and our shared love of food, this makes complete sense. Food is one of the many ways we show that we care. I will often show up at my parents’ house with peanut butter cookies for my dad or a jar of homemade lemon curd for my mom. And vice versa. In the early days of the pandemic, there was a knock at my door one day and a care package sat there, filled to the brim with jars of my mom’s pasta sauce, cookies for the kids and butter tarts for me. My parents waved from the car, and I burst into tears. See? It’s how we show love.
My grandma, Eleanor—also known as Gram or Grammie, Jo, Miss Ellie, Gigi—was a great baker, and she had her specialties. Her chocolate chip cookies were unrivalled, her whipped shortbread to die for. But these cookies, with a slight crispness on the outside and soft chewiness on the inside, were (and still are) magic. The recipe apparently came from McCall’s Magazine (now defunct) in December 1958, but to me, the recipe belonged to her. (I know it didn't, copyright police—let's not be too literal here.)
I’ve never quite been able to make them as well as she did. There’s always something off about mine—they’ve never quite as chewy, and mine always have a touch too much or not enough ginger—even though I follow the recipe exactly. There is obviously something elusive at play, and I’m betting it’s that my lovely gram, who left us five years ago this past August, isn’t here to make them. But they’re still so good nonetheless, and when I even catch a whiff of a batch in the oven, it’s like I’m a kid (and then a teenager) in her kitchen at Christmastime, and nothing else matters.
Below is the recipe I'm yammering on about, and a quick snapshot of the recipe card I remember from my house as a kid. This one is in my mom's handwriting, complete with important ad hoc additions, copied from Miss Ellie's original.
Miss Ellie's Ginger Crinkles
2¼ cup cake and pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
¾ cup shortening
1 c. brown sugar, packed
Granulated sugar (or sprinkles!)
Preheat over to 375F.
Sift dry ingredients together.
Work shortening and sugar until soft. Stir in egg and molasses.
Chill in fridge about 30 min. Mold dough into balls, dip into granulated sugar and sprinkle them with water before putting in oven.
Bake 10-12 min, but check at 9 min.
Cover image: Jennifer Palliam/Unsplash (These aren't perfect but close—a little flat and maybe a touch too big but close on colour. Forgive a startup for slightly mismatching stock, please!)