Friday, December 02, 2011
I'm sure by now you've gotten over the "What? It's December already? Where did the year go?" moment and recollected yourself just long enough to realize yes, it's that time of the year again. The time where at most places and offices, it's largely an unproductive month and work just gets literally dragged in that festive, oh-that-can-wait-till-later slow motion mood. (I wonder why Pope Gregory XIII didn't just declare the whole of it a vacation back in 1582.) And then of course, every time we hit the shops for necessities, we're reminded by an ever faint and distant jingle bells, jingle bells that it's time to arrange for gift giving, tree trimming and, if you're like me, cookie baking. I love Christmas though, having been brought up in a home with a green fake pine (one year my mother even attempted fake snow with bits of polystyrene in place of her trusty cotton wool), booze laden fruit cake (yes, it's my mother's recipe, and yes, I will attempt that this year) and Smurfs Christmas carols (don't ask).
Last year, despite just returning from a dreamy vacation down south, we did end up with a big bird which fed us for a month, complete with cranberry jam and gravy. In the midst of recovering from a post-holiday depression (that's really an exaggeration but hey, it was Melbourne-Great Ocean Road-Philip Island-Sydney back to Singapore), I barely baked a batch of these on Christmas Eve, which turned out pretty much sub-par by our standards - and I believe this was by no fault of Deb or the recipe, just our own preferences when it comes to what goes into our cookie jars. So when she came up with this just after Thanksgiving this year - neatly piled up rounds of deep, dark handsomeness promising not only gingery spiciness but snap! - I literally jumped off my chair to the store for a bottle of allspice.
You see, since the gingerbread cookies episode, I've kept on a lookout for blackstrap molasses, which I didn't have then and therefore couldn't get my results as dark as Deb's. Sometime between then and half a year ago, I chanced upon this bottle hidden among other organic health foods at a rather new supermarket in town. This time round I was confident the gingersnaps would come out the color of chocolate and was not disappointed. In fact, they snapped so robustly I found the urge to 'test' each batch as an excuse to eat more. As Deb put it, the recipe is perfect. A good amount went into my care packages and gift boxes, leaving less than half for us to savor on rainy nights with coffee (Vijay) and milk (me, occasionally also with Milo).
While our December calendar looks to be peppered with short bursts of days away from the kitchen, I still have hopes to fill the back of my freezer with some reassurance and comfort of the imminent 12-days-to-Christmas cookie bake-off weeks, mind you. There will be another round of this, plus our favorite Korova cookies - double the recipes, but of course - and then some. And yes, the freezer, not cookies jars, because those things are never big enough.
Gingersnaps [Printer Friendly Version]
Barely adapted from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen, with original recipes from Sweet Melissa Patisserie, Cook's Illustrated and various other places.
Yield: about 6 dozen
Notes: For a stronger ginger kick, add 1-2 teaspoons of finely grated fresh ginger (with the wet ingredients) or 1-2 tablespoons finely minced candied ginger (with the dry ingredients). Various people commented on Deb's site on not being able to get the cookies as dark. I suspect the molasses used affects the color, so if you like yours the same, try to source for blackstrap molasses - I used the same one as Deb's. If you're like me, stuck in a hot and humid climate, return the dough to the fridge after each session of rolling out to maintain its firmness. My cookies spread more thinly so eyeball yours to see if you need to spread them apart more on the baking sheet.
- 2 1/4 cups/281 grams all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons/10 grams baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon/2-3 grams table salt
- 3 teaspoons/6 grams ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon/2 grams ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon/1 gram allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon/ground white pepper
- 2 sticks/8 ounces/227 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup/96 grams light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup/79 milliliters unsulphured molasses
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl of a stand mixer fixed with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars together until fluffy, about three minutes on medium. Add egg and molasses and beat until combined. Add dry the ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined. Thoroughly scrape down bowl, ensuring that all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
Transfer your cookie dough to plastic wrap, using a plate to support it as it will be quite wet and soft. Chill in fridge for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and spread at least 2 inches apart (see my notes) on baking sheets that have either been greased or lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, which is the complete range. Between 10 to 12 minutes, the cookies will be softer. In the 13 to 15 range, they will be snappy. When done to your liking, leave them on their baking sheets long enough so they’re just firm to be transferred to a cooling rack with a spatula, anywhere between 2 to 5 minutes. Cool cookies completely before packing up in airtight containers.
Do ahead: In an airtight container at room temperature, the cookies will soften a bit each day. Mine remained snappy on day 5 in my trusted Tupperware. Cookies keep for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the freezer. You can keep balls of the unbaked dough in the freezer for up to 2 weeks and bake them as you need them.
“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. The you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”
Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”
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