“What’s all the fuss about gluten free?” Frank Carollo likes to joke. “The gluten has always been free at the Bakehouse.” Carollo and Amy Emberling are master bakers, co-owners of Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the authors of a new cookbook of the same name.
Zingerman’s Bakehouse will make any one-time resident of Southeast Michigan nostalgic for the shop’s crusty breads, crumbly coffee cake, pillowy challah, and towers of cookies: Big Os (a chewy oatmeal raisin), walnut rugelach, and ginger jump-ups, a molasses cookie that, according to Carollo, flies off the shelves in December.
“During a normal time of the year we probably sell 2,000 jump-ups per month,” Emberling says. “But this week we’re making thousands of them, and will probably sell around 6 or 7 thousand of them this month.”
The bakery, which was founded in 1992 and turned 25 this year, is part of a collective of businesses that include a creamery, several restaurants, and a deli that opened its doors in 1982. If Zingerman’s is the town square — albeit one that smells of toasted flour, roasting nuts, and sweet spices — then Carollo and Emberling are its mayors.
“We started making the jump-ups in 1995? No, 1997,” Emberling says. “It’s been 20 years.”
The story is that a pastry chef who worked at the bakery in the mid-’90s, Karen Lucas, brought in a recipe for a molasses cookie. Emberling moved away from Ann Arbor for a few years around then, but when she came back, that cookie was still on the menu and she decided to tweak the recipe. “We replaced the brown sugar with muscovado to amp up the molasses flavor, and added bits of candied ginger to the dough, and then rolled it in demerara (an unrefined raw sugar) for added crunch.” The large crystals of demerara also add sparkle to the finished cookies.
The jump-ups are now one of Zingerman’s biggest sellers, and this month, the bakery is in high gear for the holidays, or, as Carollo says, “the highest of high gears. We’re making something like 15,000 pieces of pastry a day — including cookies — and 12,000 to 15,000 pieces of bread.”
On why they’re called ginger jump-ups, Emberling says she “liked that original molasses cookie but wanted to add more flavor — jump it up a little.” That’s essentially Zingerman’s secret sauce: Take a good recipe and make it great.
Ginger Jump-Up Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies
1/2 cup (110 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed (150 g) muscovado brown sugar
1/3 cup (110 g) molasses
1 large egg, room temperature
2 cups plus 3 tbsp (310 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup (110 g) chopped crystallized ginger
Demerara sugar for sprinkling tops
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C].
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, muscovado sugar, and molasses with a wooden spoon until well blended. If you are using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add the egg and mix until the mixture is light and creamy.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, and cloves. Stir with a fork until evenly combined. Add all of the dry ingredients and the crystallized ginger to the creamed butter mixture and mix until completely incorporated. If using an electric mixer, use a low speed.
4. Portion the cookie dough using a 3⁄4-oz [22-ml] portioner, or shape it by hand into balls, using about 11⁄2 Tbsp of dough for each. Place onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper, leaving space for the cookies to spread. With the palm of your hand, press each cookie down to a thick disk. Top each cookie generously with Demerara sugar. For the best coverage, dip the cookie’s top surface into the sugar to completely cover it. This is easier to do when the cookies are chilled.
5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes. Overbaking will make the cookies too firm. You want them to be fairly soft. It is a little difficult to know when they are done, because they are so dark to start with that the color change is not dramatic. Look for firm edges, and avoid a visibly wet center. Also remember that they will continue to bake after you remove them from the oven.
• If you’d like bigger cookies, make them bigger! In the bakery we make 3-oz [96-ml, about 1⁄3 cup] cookies regularly, and they’re wonderful. These will need to bake for closer to 18 minutes. The critical point about size is that it’s best if all the cookies on a baking tray are the same size, so that they will all bake at the same rate.
• If you don’t want to bake all of your cookies at the same time, you can form them and refrigerate them for a week in a closed container. You’ll need to add a couple of minutes to the baking time.