Debate-watching Walnut Gingerbread Fingers, Spicy and Crisp

This post is coming to you because reader Lennie recently asked for the caponata recipe from Good Food, a syndicated column I wrote in a former life (from 1976 to 1994). Hadn’t used the recipe in years. Had to go back and look though hard copy. While looking came across a column that’s scarily relevant – and the cookies are delicious.

Excerpted  from  Goodies to Win or Lose By, Good Food, October 29th, 1980

“ I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.” – Jonathan Swift.

…Watching TV is notorious for inclining one to munch, and there is something about a quadrennial spectacle based simultaneously on inanity and calamity that just about forces the more nervous among us to eat. Something, anything – fingernails even, all else failing. But more often something fattening.

With Gingerfingers , you can have both. (Plus Halloween is coming. Giving homemade treats seems to be out, but kids do have fun making these….)

walnut gingerbread finger cookies

walnut gingerbread finger cookies


The trompe l’oeil fingers are fun but of course somewhat time consuming. Nothing wrong with making a few fingers for the fun of the thing, then slicing a few zillion icebox cookies out of the rest of the dough.

For about 80 fingers:

3 ½  c. all-purpose flour

2 generous tsp. ground ginger

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

pinch each nutmeg and dry mustard

1/2c. honey

3 tbl. Molasses

2/3c. sugar

½ c. butter, cut in 3 or 4 pieces

¼ c. lard or chicken, duck, or bacon fat, or 5 tablespoons more butter

2 tsp. baking soda

1 c. ground walnuts

sliced almonds for decorating

1. Mix the flour with the salt and spices and set aside.

2. Put the honey, molasses, sugar and fats in a kettle or large saucepan and stir over low heat just until the fats melt and mixture is smooth. Don’t let it actually cook. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the soda.

3. Stir in the spiced flour, then work in the walnuts, using your hands if necessary. The dough will be very firm but malleable.

4. Heat the oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and create fingers (see below), keeping them about ½ inch apart. Bake until a bit darker than gold, 12 to 15 minutes or more depending on size. Transfer gently to racks for cooling; they’re soft when they’re hot – as durable as biscotti after they cool.


Pinch off a tablespoon size lump of dough and squeeze it in the crease between your palm and fingers to elongate it into a fat, bumpy rope – or a skinny bumpy torpedo, depending on how you look at it. Place the proto-finger on the paper and fiddle so it’s about 1/3 inch  in diameter and 3 or 4 inches long. Blunt one end and leave the other tapered.

Using a fingertip, moisten the narrow ends of the fingers. Apply sliced almonds to be the nails.









Hiding from politics

Hiding from politics

This is Mr. Earl  – and if there were a basket big enough I’d be curled up in it too. 



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  • ruralway Said,

    These are great. I laughed out loud and enjoyed it because I am so consumed by politics at the moment that I need the relief.
    I am curious about the dry mustard in the recipe..seems like an unusual ingedient for cookies.

  • leslie Said,

    Hi again, RW,

    Dry mustard in gingerbread is a holdover from Medieval times. Adding just a pinch punches up the ginger.

  • Leigh Williams Said,

    Yay, another cookie recipe! I still haven’t made the chocolate chip cookies . . . we’ve been having weddings in the family for three months . . . but Central Market now has cocoa nibs (in response to my request?) and it will be a happenin’ thang next week. I’ll let you know how it turns out . . .

    And this one is a definite for Halloween.

  • leslie Said,

    Hi Leigh

    Thanks for the cookie cheer – a reminder I ought to be doing better at keeping the family jar full… amazing how one sloughs off when the child is grown up and the spouse retires.

    As for the nibs; they seem to be a hotter and hotter item, now in retail packaging from Scharffen Berger ( Hershey’s, actually, since 2005, but still pretty good) and probably others as well, so there’s no guarantee your request made a difference. But it certainly didn’t hurt and may have been the tipping point. I’m a big believer in asking: for high end chocolate, for local produce, for grass-fed beef and humanely-raised pork – it’s always a vote and votes do count.

  • Matt Said,

    These turned out great, but also gave this very infrequent baker a lesson in reading recipes more closely. I looked it over quickly, and made a mental note that I had everything the recipe called for in the pantry. However, I didn’t realize I only had about a measly teaspoon of molasses in the jar, and about the same amount of honey. So I substituted some dark brown sugar for the white sugar to compensate for my molasses deficit, and maple syrup for the honey. In any case, the substitutions didn’t seem to harm the final product as they were delicious. We munched on them while watching town hall debate (which was a good thing, because the sugar helped keep us awake). Also, I managed to overlook that the recipe made 80 cookies! So I brought some of the leftovers in to the office, and my boss went nuts for them.

  • leslie Said,

    Go Matt! Sounds like just the sort of solution a frequent (but absent-minded) baker would come up with. Hope you didn’t give away ALL the leftovers; next occasion for nail-biting is just a week away.

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