Fairy Gingerbread with Black Pepper and Pine

Sometimes, when no book will put me to sleep, I resort to channel surfing.  Long past the witching hour the other night, I landed upon an episode of America's Test Kitchen.  I secretly adore the blind product tasting segments on ATK.  Don't judge, that's like a game show for the food nerds (surprise, you chose the cheap mega-mart bacon over the $35/lb imported variety! or  fooled you! we slipped a homemade version into the tasting and that's the one you like best, ah-hahaha!).  But in general, the recipe segments lose me.  I mean, the whole business of testing a recipe hundreds of time, the precision, the frequency with which they whip out rulers (and not even for spanking), the intellectual approach to cooking, while I appreciate it, ain't exactly my bag.  I was about to click away when I perked up at the recipe tease - fairy gingerbread.

Fairy whaaaa?

Ok, you've sucked in another insomniac, Cris Kringle, er Kimball.  Turns out that fairy gingerbread is a thin version of the beloved cookie meant to be presented like a snackable deck of cards during a game of Euchre.  Hunh, who knew?  Charming, though, don't you think?  No rolling, no man-shaped cookie cutter-ing, no elaborate decorating required.  I'm in!

I did my best to scribble down the recipe by the light of the moon, and recreated it the next day.  I omitted the powdered ginger, because I had none.  Instead, I used only freshly grated ginger, then amped up the spiciness with black pepper, and corkscrewed in resinous and citrus notes with the addition of pine needles.  The result is a wafer-thin, brittle, super spicy cookie, the kind that just begs to be served with a strong cup of tea.

Fairy* Gingerbread with Black Pepper and Pine

5 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
9 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
3/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. +2 Tbsp flour or gluten-free flour blend of your choice**
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. finely ground black pepper
2 tsp. finely ground fragrant pine needles
1/4 c. milk

1. Cream together the butter and sugar until it looks as if the sugar has mostly dissolved, and the butter has become a little fluffy.

2.  Stir in the grated ginger and vanilla.

3.  In a small bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and pine.

4.  Add half of the milk to the creamed butter, and stir to combine.  Add half of the dry ingredients, and stir the batter until it is smooth.  Stir in the rest of the milk, then the rest of the dry ingredients. 

5.  Use an offset spatula to spread half of the batter onto each of two parchment-lined half sheet pans.  Spread it over the paper as thinly as possible in the shape of a rectangle.  If you are chronically anal-retentive, like the cooks on America's Test Kitchen, then you will be able to execute a perfect rectangle.  Also, you will have already marked your parchment paper with a ruler with guides to cutting the cookies after they bake.  If you are like me, you'll slop out something rather rectangular-ish, and call it good.

6.  Bake the cookies in a 325 degree (F) oven for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pans midway through that time.  Keep a very close eye on the cookies as they bake.  Being so thin, they go from looking raw to overcooked in a jiff.  Yes, I just said jiff.  I'm bringing jiff back.  Watch out, I'm also bringing back spiffy.  But I digress... Look to pull the cookies out of the oven when they are mostly medium brown.

7.  As soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, use a greased pizza wheel to cut them into rectangles.  Again, if you are prone to gettin' all OCD in the kitchen, you will have pre-measured your parchment so that you can cut your cookies into perfectly little rectangles the size of playing cards.  If you are like me, you will end up with rectangles of every size, and not much care.

8.  Once the cookies have completely cooled, carefully go back over the cuts with a pizza wheel or a paring knife.  Do this gently because they will be prone to crumbling at this point.  Then, all that remains is to peel them off the parchment paper.

*No fairies were harmed in the making of these cookies
**I used a gluten-free combination of sorghum flour, rice flour, arrowroot, and xanthan gum


  1. Done! And SOLD to the Angeleno friend with the fairy and pine obsession...

  2. You are such a goofball! I love it when you let your funny side show in your writing.

  3. Lovely! Do you dry the pine needles first, or grind them fresh?

    1. I used fresh. There are some really tasty trees a few blocks away from home. I used scissors to snip them into tiny bits, then smushed them with my mortar and pestle.

  4. Would you share your "blend" for the gluten-free flour?

    1. I know this is unusual, but I tend to just eyeball my blends using whatever flours I have around. I've gotten to really adore sorghum flour though, and find it to be lovely in baked good, with both a nice flavor and texture. If I were to approximate, I'd say that I used something like 2 parts sorghum, 1 part rice, 1 part arrowroot, and a heavy pinch of xanthan gum.

    2. Thank you! I am new(ish) to gluten-free baking, so I appreciate the help.

  5. Sounds delicious! I'll have to pull some of my fir tree sprigs out of the freezer for this recipe...

  6. I'm with you in preferring spicy gingerbread, and also in not wanting to do the whole roll and cut business.

    Looking forward to using pine for the first time. This certainly sounds like the perfect occasion to do so.

    1. How exciting, your first time using pine! Just make certain, using a guidebook, or better yet, an actual human expert, that you've correctly identified your tree as pine. It isn't hard, as pine needles emerge from their branches in bundles, rather than singly.

  7. I simply marvel at the minds of people who can watch a recipe on tv and know know just how they want to manipulate it to suit their own tastes. I guess I'm one of the people who are better off measuring their squares with a ruler :)

    1. Nothing wrong with using your ruler. It takes all types!

  8. Making this tomorrow.

    And I know just the tree...

  9. These look so great! Part of me is afraid of the black pepper, though.

  10. And here I told myself that I wouldn't bake any cookies this year. But come on, fairy gingerbread? Who could resist that?

  11. Just "discovered" this recipe which will be perfect for our botanical center's Fairy Tea in March. A number of us dress in elaborate fairy costumes and entertain several hundred little girls and their mothers at the annual tea. I am dressing as the Gingerbread Fairy so these cookies will be PERFECT! Thanks for sharing your ideas.


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