"Is it true that you shouted at Professor Umbridge?" "Yes, said Harry." " You called her a liar?" "Yes." "You told her that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back?" "Yes." Professor McGonagall sat down behind her desk, frowning at Harry. Then she said, "Have a biscuit, Potter." "Have -- what?" "Have a biscuit," McGonagall repeated impatiently, indicating a tartan tin of cookies lying on top of one of the piles of papers on her desk. [...] He sank into a chair opposite her and helped himself to a Ginger Newt. - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
A seasonal favorite to enjoy with a cup of tea
Ginger Newts make an appearance in the 5th book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Professor McGonagall's office as she warns potter not to overstep in the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge. Harry had expected to be shouted at, but instead, the usually stern McGonagall rewards him with a couple of Ginger Newt Biscuits she has sitting on her desk as she reminds him to keep his head down and temper calm while in her class. It's obvious that Professor McGonagall despises the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher as much as the students do, but owing to her decorum as the head of Gryffindor house, uses biscuits to applaud Harry standing up to Professor Umbridge while she delivers her warning.
My version of Professor McGonagall's Ginger Newt Biscuits uses a classic ginger nut biscuit (or ginger snap cookie) recipe and a newt-shaped cutter to retain the shape of the magical treat. These biscuits are sweetened with golden syrup and brown sugar and spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves -- and a dash of orange zest! The resulting biscuit offers a distinctive crisp snap and a lightly sweet flavor perfect for enjoying with a cup of afternoon tea all season long.
What's the difference between a ginger nut and a ginger snap?
The term ginger nut and ginger snap are generally considered synonymous terms for the same crisp ginger cookie. However, much like the term biscuit means something very different in the UK than it does in the US, the terms may have slight variances in their meaning depending on where you use them. From what I can surmise, the term ginger nut is more popularly favored in the UK to describe a crunchy ginger biscuit (cookie) that is "as hard as a nut," but does not actually contain nuts. Biscuits in the UK are generally considered a "cookie" with a distinctive "snap" when broken into two, unlike American cookies which are often soft or chewy -- though can also be crisp and snap (you know, just to make things confusing).
A ginger snap, on the other hand, is a term generally favored in the US. Though the term probably originally referred to a ginger cookie with a distinctive snap, much like the UK biscuit, the term has broadened to include ginger snap cookies that are crispy, soft, or chewy (though if you ask me, this seems like a misnomer and the soft and chewy cookies should be called something else). Regardless of what you call them, these biscuits/cookies are deliciously gingery and when baked fully, produce a distinctive snap when broken in half.
Golden syrup. What's it all about?
Golden syrup is a sweet inverted sugar syrup that is common in British ginger nut recipes as well as other sweet bakes, so it was a given that I included it in this recipe for Professor McGonagall's Ginger Newts. I was able to pick a tin of the syrup up from my local specialty market, however, golden syrup can be more difficult to find in many areas of the US, so I've included a few alternative options that you can use for this recipe if you are unable to find it, as well as a breakdown of the differences in flavor.
Sometimes referred to as light treacle, golden syrup is amber-gold in color and a buttery caramel flavor. It is the most authentic option for this recipe.
Made from corn rather than sugar, corn syrup can be found in both light and dark colors. For this recipe, I would suggest sticking to the light-colored corn syrup, which is both lighter in color and flavor than golden syrup, but a nice alternative if you can't find that option. Light corn syrup often contains vanilla flavoring, which can be nice in this recipe, whereas dark corn syrup has a much richer, slightly molasses-y flavor.
Created from refining sugarcane or sugarbeets into a syrup, dark treacle is sweeter and richer than dark corn syrup but lighter than molasses, making it a good option for these biscuits if you prefer a dark, richer, and more pronounced flavor.
Sometimes referred to as dark treacle because it's created from the same refining process, but boiled for much longer. Molasses is rich and dark, often almost black in color, gives baked goods a strong bittersweet flavor, and contributes greatly to the softness of a baked good. This is my least favorite option for these cookies because the flavor is so much more pronounced than I'd prefer for this bake and the variations between molasses can make for a sweet or very bitter bake, depending on what you use.
Baking various shapes and sizes of biscuits
I made three different shapes and sizes of biscuits with this dough when developing and testing it, in case you would like to make more than just newts with this delicious ginger biscuit dough.
I used this lizard biscuit cutter to make the newt shapes. It is approximately 4-inches long and nearly 2-inches at its widest part. However, the body is narrow and there are many small design edges in this cutter so it was not the easiest to work with. Even so, I do think this size was most appropriate for biscuits that will be kept in a classic biscuit tin. I certainly would not recommend this cutter for children as it took a deft hand and some troubleshooting to work with.
If you choose to use this cutter, I found it worked best dredging lightly in flour between every single cut (don't skip a flour dip even once or it will stick) and to release the cutter by first pulling up from the tail end and then slowly pulling the rest of the cutter up from a 45-degree angle rather than pulling it up straight/horizontally. If this sounds like a lot of work to you, I found many other lizard designs on both Amazon and Etsy that you could try. A larger cutter with less detailed edges would likely be the easiest option.
One batch of dough was enough to make approximately 36 Professor McGonagall's Ginger Newt Biscuits using this cutter when rolled approximately ¼-inch thick. I found that these biscuits baked best at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 12-14 minutes (13 minutes being the sweet spot for my oven).
Hogwarts house crest
I purchased this Harry Potter themed cookie cutter set earlier this year and have been waiting for the right opportunity to use it. They each make a 3 x 2-inch crest-shaped cookie with one of the 4 Hogwart's houses stamped on the front. I recommend pressing firmly (but gently) on the press to ensure the press design remains in the cookie post-baking.
One batch of dough was enough to make approximately 24 ginger biscuits using the Hogwarts house crest cutter when rolled approximately ¼ inch thick. I found that these biscuits baked best at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 14-16 minutes.
Classic fluted rounds
The classic ginger nut shape is a round biscuit. I chose to use this fluted round cutter in a 1 ⅞ inch (48mm) size for a batch of these cookies because I wanted to fill my cookie tins with a little variety, and also make things super easy on myself when making en masse. This biscuit cutter comes in a set of 7 sizes with a classic round shape on one side and a fluted round on the opposite side. I've had mine for several years and find ample use for both English biscuits (cookies) and American biscuits.
One batch of dough was enough to make approximately 64 ginger biscuits using the fluted round cutter in a 1 ⅞ inch size when rolled approximately ¼-inch thick. I found that these biscuits baked best at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 12-14 minutes).
What tools do I need to make this recipe?
- Kitchen scale (or measuring cups for less accurate measurements)
- Measuring spoons
- A large mixing bowl
- A rolling pin
- Baking sheets
- Parchment paper
- Biscuit cutters: For the newt shape I used this cutter, for the Gryffindor crest shape I used this cutter, for the fluted round shape I used this cutter
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My version of Professor McGonagall's Ginger Newt Biscuits uses a classic ginger nut biscuit (or ginger snap cookie) recipe and a newt-shaped cutter to retain the shape of the magical treat. The resulting biscuit offers a distinctive crisp snap and a lightly sweet flavor perfect for enjoying with a cup of afternoon tea all season long.
- 350g all-purpose flour (approximately 2 ¾ cups + 2 ½ tbsp), plus more to flour your surface
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp Kosher salt
- 4 oz (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small dices
- zest of one orange
- 175 g (approximately ¾ cup + 2 tbsp, tightly packed) brown sugar
- 4 tbsp golden syrup (see notes for substitutions)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- (optional) Turbinado sugar, to top
- Line 2 baking half sheets with parchment paper and reserve to the side.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt until evenly mixed.
- Work in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture is gravelly and resembled breadcrumbs.
- Add the brown sugar, golden syrup, and the beaten egg and stir with a spoon to combine. I find that once the mixture is semi-combined, it works best to combine the rest by hand, working the mixture until it is a smooth dough. At first, it will seem like you need more liquid, but don't be tempted to add any. As you keep working the dough, it should come together.
- Lightly flour your rolling surface and your rolling pin, then roll the dough out to approximately ¼-inch. A thicker dough can be used but the biscuits are less likely to have their signature "hard as a nut" snap. Cut newts or other desired shapes with a biscuit/cookie cutter (see the section "Baking Various Shapes and Sizes of Biscuits" for tips on baking time and how to keep the dough from sticking to intricate cutters) and transfer to the reserved baking sheets. Sprinkle with optional turbinado sugar, if desired.
- Chill the cut shapes in the refrigerator for atleast 20 minutes to help the biscuits hold their shape. Once the biscuits go in the fridge, I like to preheat my oven to 350 degrees F (180C).
- Once chilled, bake for 12-16 minutes (depending on cutter used - see post above) or until their color deepens to a golden brown. After baking, allow the biscuits to cool fully. As they cool, they will harden further to help give you their signature biscuit snap!
Nutritional information on Whip & Wander is provided as a courtesy and is approximate only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site.
Golden syrup substitutions: You may sub for light corn syrup for a lighter cookie or dark corn syrup or dark treacle for a darker/richer cookie. Molasses may also be used with caution as it tends to be bitter *please see post above for more detailed information on substituting golden syrup)
- Serving Size: 2 newt biscuits
- Calories: 171
- Sugar: 14 g
- Sodium: 87 mg
- Fat: 5 g
- Saturated Fat: 4 g
- Carbohydrates: 29 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 3 g
- Cholesterol: 24 mg
Keywords: Professor McGonagall, Ginger Newt Biscuits, Harry Potter recipes