Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ginger Snap Simple

Just a quick post about this weeks cookies, then hopefully I can take up some time and space and give a little update on my trip this past weekend to New Orleans for the Rock 'n Roll Mardi Gras Marathon (or half marathon in my case).  Lots to tell about the Big Easy but that's just gonna have to wait.
The finished product in my 'Aunt Mary' cookie jar

For the moment at least I'll stay on topic about the cookies that went out today.  Given the day my trip fell on(left on Saturday and returned Tuesday afternoon) it meant some pre-planning on my part, along with a recipe selection that needed to be a bit less labor intensive than were some previous cookies.  But short on time definitely should not mean short on flavor.  I'd had a few options floating around but in the end settled on a tried and true version of a most basic cookie - nope, not chocolate chip (I'm holding out on that one for awhile - too much pressure!) ... what I chose was a 'Ginger Snap.'   Not a gingerbread cookie or molasses crinkle, but a simple, spicy, crisp, slice and bake Ginger Snap.  I do believe a glass of milk or cup of coffee is a prerequisite with these cookies since they can definitely stand up to any 'dunk' test!

I wasn't really looking for a Ginger Snap recipe, but when I happened upon it, I knew I had to make it.  For two reasons: 1) it's recommended that the dough be made ahead of time and it's even preferred to freeze it before slicing and baking the cookies (which would fit perfectly with my travel plans); and 2) it's from one of the few American chef icons of our time, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame, the slow food movement and the instigator of the current White House garden.  A bit of  dreamer for sure, but she certainly knows good food.

The recipe is below - and if you make it I'd suggest keeping a 'log' in your freezer so you can slice off a half dozen or more and bake them up fresh when you need them - these definitely are not an average ginger cookie!  And you can see more about Alice Waters on this 60 Minutes piece from last year.

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Ginger Snaps
Makes ~40 cookies
From The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution (Clarkson Potter) by Alice Waters.

2 cups (280 g) flour
11/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
11/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
11 tablespoons (150 g) butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (80 g) mild-flavored molasses* (sometimes called 'light' molasses)
1 large egg, at room temperature

Optional step: coarse sugar crystals, turbinado sugar or white sugar for coating the cookies.  You can also rev-up the spices, and add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, cloves, nutmeg or allspice to suit your taste.

1. Stir together the dry ingredients.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter just until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat until smooth, stopping the mixer to scrape down any butter clinging to the sides of the bowl.

3. Stir in the vanilla, molasses and egg.

4. Mix in the dry ingredients gradually until the dough is smooth.

5. Divide the dough in two equal portions and roll each on a lightly-floured surface until each is about 2-inches (5cm) around. Don't worry if they're not perfect; you can neaten them up in a second.

6. Wrap each in plastic wrap then roll them lightly on the counter to smooth them out. Refrigerate, or better yet, freeze the cookie logs until firm.

7. To bake, preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

8. Slice cookie dough into 1/4-inch (a scant 1 cm) rounds with a sharp knife. Dip one side and press firmly in a bowl of coarse sugar if you want (you can also use granulated sugar instead), and place sugar-side up on baking sheet, evenly-spaced apart. Leave a couple of inches, about 5 cm, between cookies since they'll spread while baking.

9. Bake for 10-14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, until deep-golden brown. The cookies will puff up a bit while baking, then settle down when they're done. Bake on the lower end of the range for softer cookies, and more for snappier ones, depending on your oven.

10. Let the cookies cool two minutes, then remove them with a spatula and transfer them to a cooling rack.
Storage: The dough can be refrigerated for up to five days, or frozen for up to three months. Once baked, the cookies can be kept in an air-tight container for a couple of days but like anything made with butter, of course they're best the day they're baked.

Nutritional Information based on 40 Cookies: Calories:75  Fat:3.3g  Cholesterol:13.9g  Sodium:79.1mg  Potassium:34.7mg Total Carbohydrate:7.4g  Fiber:0.3g  Sugars:5.6g  Protein:0.8g

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