Today I am reminded of Kathleen Kelly’s line in You’ve Got Mail: “I lead a small life – well, valuable but small………..”
In December I find it a comfort to always have a batch of cookies in my covered cake plate. It helps me get through the month of darkest days and it makes me happy to look at it.
Today’s question is: At this time of year does anyone really need another Ginger Spice Cookie recipe? The answer to this question is probably no. But, am I ever one to let anything which, on the surface, may appear so trivial as this, go?
Honestly, we all probably have at least one favorite ginger cookie recipe that we yearn for once the weather turns pseudo-frightful (right now it’s just too dark but not cold). I awake some mornings at this time of year and swear I can smell the spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves in my head – and I hear my Mom reminding me to buy fresh bottles of spices before the holiday baking commences.
Never one to not try and try again with a recipe – I’ve spent the better part of nearly 40 years trying to recreate my Grandmother’s Taralli and even longer with the Honey Loaf from B. Altman and Co. – when I get a memory into my head, I just can’t seem to let it go.
While the choices for Ginger Spice Cookies are indeed ubiquitous, there are certain forms that serve certain needs, right? (when it comes to cookies, I am indeed needy and very persnickety as well) You need one great recipe for rolled and cut-out cookies. You need one good chewy Gingersnap. And, in my humble opinion, you also need one good crispy-crunchy one. Opinions will vary on the actual spiciness of the cookie as well. I like mine spicy. Some may not include all four spices either. Some may include different ones: allspice, cardamom or star anise, for example. Some may include fresh ginger and/or minced crystalized ginger (Ina Garten’s are one of my favs). Well, that is all a long way to getting around to today’s little story……….
My latest, try and try again story goes like this: All it takes for me is one unfortunate incident with a store-bought product and I’m incensed enough to get into the kitchen and try to repair the damage to my overall if not merely palate-related sensibility. These days I find myself railing at big food conglomerates who seem to be on a mission to ruin products and then try to pass them off as something that they are not, all the while pinching all the pennies they can. While in my head I think I should let these things go, in my heart I remain incensed – why must companies ruin a good thing? (I know the answer as sure as the nose is on my face but I remain stuck on the concept of a good thing.) This inability to let things like this go must have something to do with being part Sicilian – at least my husband would say so.
Last week I went searching for a Ginger Spice Biscuit that I had found in my local Kings Supermarket last year. I was curious and heartened at the time when I found that they were actually made in Italy. It is unusual to find imported baked goods in the grocery store. That in and of itself made them worth a try. I enjoyed a few sparsely picked boxes of these in my weak moments last year and maybe early in this when I needed a nice cookie but didn’t have time to bake my own. I was heartened to know that they were there in time of need. This particular version was very light and crispy and had a curious undertone to it – like it was perhaps made at least partially with whole wheat flour – or actually, it was a little wheat-germ-y, if you will. (wheat in Italy is better on any level). Of course, not knowing the impending hastiness of their ultimate destiny, I never took a moment to study the ingredient list. But, there was definitely something unique there. Today I embarked upon what is the maiden version of trying to recreate this cookie – I wanted to see what I could do before monkeying around.
The new, bought-out version – by Mondelez – don’t get me started, formerly Nabisco, was a complete disaster. Not only did they feel compelled to reformulate these “biscuits” but they made them with palm oil and corn syrup! I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up even as I was still munching on my first and only bite while gazing at the ingredients.
I should have let go but I didn’t. I have begun my own personal attack on these – and here is my first try. I really wish I had a box of the old ones so I could contact the company that made them and warn them off the conglomerate temptation (I see marketers waving dollar bills in front of some little Italian bakers’ faces.) But alas, as with Murray’s Cheese, Cabot Creamery, Haagen-Daz and my beloved Pears Soap, to name just a pimple of a few, I guess I would lose that battle.
In any event, I will have fun trying to reformulate these little cookies to my liking. Here is today’s version as a starting point. I will keep you posted with their evolution.
Crisp Ginger Spice Biscuits – makes about 2 dozen, loosely adapted from Sepp, Hessen Germany via All Recipes UK
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 heaping tsp ground ginger (new bottle)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves (new bottle)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
7/8 cups soft brown sugar
7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root (on a rasp)
3 tbsp molasses
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
In bowl of your food processor, whir together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, spices, salt and pepper. Add the butter and pulse until pieces pieces resemble small peas. Add the egg, molasses and fresh ginger. Pulse until the dough comes together. Do not over process. Dough should be very stiff. Dump into a large bowl and finish mixing with a wooden spoon.
Roll pieces of dough the size of a walnut into balls and roll in muscavado sugar. Place on prepared baking sheet. Press lightly with a fork.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until nicely browned.
Not bad for a first foray. I like the black pepper but they’re not right yet. I have to get that back-note and great crisp though.