Gingersnaps, also called ginger biscuits, are a type of cookie. The name comes from the fact these cookies traditionally are very crispy and make a snapping sound when eaten. Gingersnaps are a derivation of gingerbread and were invented hundreds of years ago. People in colonial times enjoyed these cookies, both in European countries and in America.
Ginger is derived from the ginger root and is native to parts of South Asia; historians believe it was first cultivated in India. Ginger was prized for its valuable effects on health and imported for its medicinal uses before it was utilized for cooking purposes. Ginger found its way to ancient Rome, then to Africa and the Caribbean. In medieval times, ginger was imported to Europe in preserved form to be used in baking treats such as cakes and cookies.
Gingersnaps in Europe
Gingersnaps have a long history in England and Germany. The cookies were made using molasses as a sweetener rather than refined sugar because it was less expensive. As England expanded its colonial rule, it brought many of its cooking and baking traditions to these colonized countries. European settlers in the American colonies continued baking ginger snaps, bringing the necessary ingredients, including preserved and powdered ginger, with them.
Gingersnaps in America
European and British food traditions continued even after Americans gained their independence from Britain. Recipes that had been passed down, such as the traditional molasses and ginger recipe for snaps, continued to be used. Gingersnaps commonly are baked around the holidays.
Ways to Serve Gingersnaps
Ginger naps are served as holiday treats but they may accompany tea and coffee. Colonial tea services included light bites to eat such as cucumber sandwiches, small cakes and cookies such as gingersnaps. The spiciness of the ginger and the richness of molasses pairs well with tea or coffee. Gingersnaps also serve as garnishes in other baking recipes.