>Play With Your Food

>Several years ago I packed all my possessions into my car and moved to Missouri. Once I’d arrived and somewhat settled in, I roasted a chicken. This chicken had oil-rubbed skin that became crispy, and juicy flesh, and lemon and herbs inside. Delicious.

In the spirit of adventure and friendship, I offered to share with one of my new roommates. She replied that she would be happy to partake of my proffered fare, provided I removed the meat from the bones and kept the offending carcass away from the dining room. She informed me that she was unable to eat chicken or any other animal product if she could see and thus “know” that there were bones associated with the meat. It “grossed her out” to think about that. She would eat it, but not if she had to think about where it came from.

I’m no foodie preacher, I try but consistently fail to grow something, anything, to eat, and I maintain few dietary restrictions. The reasons I cook are many, but I think the most important reason is this: When I cook my food, I know my food. I feel the vegetables and fruits, the fish and meats and fowl, I can reasonably judge a bread dough by its moisture, and I know exactly what I’m sustaining my body with.

My hope for you is that you are comfortable enough with what you eat that you can think about where it might have come from. I hope you have comfort foods you cook, and new dishes to stretch your skills. Spring is here today! Play with your food.

>Gingersnaps

>

 

Have you ever had a go-to recipe that suddenly flopped?

These are my most famous cookies. I’ve had the recipe for years and they always came out great, and then suddenly a few years ago they just didn’t. The greatness of this cookie is that they’re not really snaps, or ginger, but more like chewy spice cookies. Not chewy like a certain Wookie, but ‘crisp on the edges, firm in the middle like a proper cookie should be’ chewy. Not that I have Opinions on cookies or anything, ahem.

Awesome!

So, my beloved cookies were weird. Flat, spread-y, weird. I tried a few more times, and they seemed to have gone loco. Then I abandoned the recipe. Last week, though, I decided to apply a little research to the problem. Preliminary findings seemed to indicate that the proportion of molasses was too high. I tweaked the recipe everysogently and tada! Back in the glory zone.

Weird.

Another Thing of Importance: Letting the dough rest in the fridge for a while helps the flour to absorb into the liquid. This is a very science-y thing that has been written on elsewhere. (If you like research that is more science-y that me and my made-up words, Cook’s Illustrated is an excellent publication that exhaustively researches and tests each recipe, explains their methodology, and has lovely pencil illustrations.) This period of rest allows for the cookies to not spread out everywhere like some ridiculous people camping with too much stuff, and it also helps with the formations of the ever-attractive crinkles. Between the sparkle of the sugar and the crinkles, these are lovely cookies to both look at and smell.

One more thing: Use the freshest spices you can find. For both cost and staleness reasons, I strongly recommend against buying spice in those little jars at the grocery store. You are mostly paying for the jar. Find a store that sells spices in bulk, has good turnover, and keeps clean cases, or else buy your spices in the little plastic pouches you can sometimes find. Store your spice away from heat, light, and excess air exposure, and only buy what you will reasonably use in the next few months.

So, if Gingersnaps is not a great name for these cookies, may I nominate Molasses Spice Crinkle Cookies?

Molasses Spice Crinkle Cookies, or, Gingersnaps

makes about 30 3″ cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
21/4 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute whole-wheat pastry flour for up to 1 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice or cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
sugar for rolling

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the egg and molasses, scraping again as needed.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Give it a final stir with a spoon to make sure everything’s even.

Cover and refrigerate the dough at least one hour, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350˚/180˚. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray. Pour some sugar into a wide bowl. Roll the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll the balls around in the sugar until they are evenly coated. (It’s easiest to work with only three or four balls of dough at a time.) Space the cookies three inches apart, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking time. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. It’s best to only bake one cookie sheet at a time.

Serve with milk. If you like dried fruits, currants (about 1/2 cup) would be a delicious addition. Stir them into the dough at the end. Mini chocolate chips are also fabulous.