July 22, 2012

It's beginning to smell alot like like Christmas!

Huh? Did you look again? I am a total ginger freak, as many of you know. Troy, my now Husband, once bought me a pound box of chocolate covered ginger for Valentine's Day when we were courting.

Lately, I have been jonesing for the spicy, sweet stuff, purchased some candied ginger from Berkeley Bowl West, made some really delicious Apricot Ginger Jam a month or so
back, and Friday, while hanging around Whole Foods Market, I spied some lovely dark brown ginger snaps in the bulk section. They were little crisp cookies, only about an inch and half big, but once I popped one into my already salavating mouth....my taste buds came alive in spicy goodness! These little cookies were really full of flavor and I tried like hell to ignore the little ginger devil on my shoulder prodding me to go back for more than a sample.

Finally, while looking for compost bags, I could ignore it no more and went back to get a few for myself to bring home. At $9.99 a pound, though, these lovely little morsels were expensive for my limited budget, so I just bought a small handful to keep to myself. Sorry Troy, and Lucia........no ginger goodness for you!

Anyhow, today, I got to thinking that I can probably make these for myself. So, while Troy was sleeping, and Lucia was watching Good Luck Charlie, and of course after I took our big doggie boy Angus to the courts to run off some energy, I got to recipe development.

I got out my Mother's Ginger Cookie recipe, Mama used to make this dough for Gingerbread Men at Christmas. Just the idea of getting out these spices makes my heart
swell for her and my time together on cold, crisp California December afternoons at holiday time. She liked her cookies soft,(like Troy likes his cookies) but I like my cookies crisp and chewy, so I knew that I had some recipe development to do.

After doing some online research, and a few trial and errors, Here is what I came up with.

Crispy Double Gingersnaps

3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup splenda
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups white wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt, finely ground
3 tsp cinnamon
1 TBSP ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together shortening, sugar and Splenda. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the egg, and beat until light and fluffy, then stir in the molasses.Scrape down the bowl again.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, spices and baking soda. Add to the egg/butter mixture and stir until just blended. Scrape down the sides once more.

By hand, stir in the candied ginger.

With a small ice cream scoop, mine is a professional scoop with a purple handle marked "40", scoop the dough flat, and then roll into a ball. Place on the prepared cookie sheet, 3 across, and four down.

Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Notes about this recipe:

*If you use butter instead of shortening, your cookies will be soft and not crisp.
*Normally I swap out Splenda for all sugar in my recipes,because my Husband Troy
is diabetic but in this case, if you really want crisp cookies, using sugar is
*Alternatively, if you prefer a sweeter cookie, you can roll the dough balls in
finely granulated sugar before putting on the cookie sheets and flattening.
*If a really spicy cookie is what you are craving, try adding 1/4 tsp finely
ground black pepper to this recipe. It really adds a bit of a kick!

April 08, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Spring has spring around our house, and even though it is still pretty darn cold at 5am when I rise, the sun soon spreads across the street to enlighten our neighbor's amazing green victorian and the pretty garden that surrounds it. It is one of my many pleasures that I enjoy in the few quiet moments (it seems) before Lucia awakens and the house becomes swathed in the sound of cartoons and eight year old hubub. Lucia and I spent the last week together,going to the TCHO chocolate factory for a tour and tasting, traveling down the coast to Harley Goat Farms to meet the goats, which by the way, are very much like dogs, rubbing against us and staring into our eyes dreamily as we scratch behind their ears. Pretty darn sweet little beings. Bonus that their milk makes one of my very favorite cheeses! This one The Monet, made with edible flowers also from the farm, Lucia and the other kids on the tour actually got to make.....super cool and yummy!
This year with our regular attendance at Church Without Walls, I have been more reflective in the history of the season, and was inspired to mark the week in a traditional way. Easter Sunday, we go to a big joined service with another local church and then continue the celebration with a potluck brunch afterward, egg hunt et all. So, not only did I make Hot Cross Buns for our little family to enjoy this Easter morning, but 40 more to share at brunch. Hot Cross Buns, it seems, first appeared in pre-Christian times when the Saxons baked them to honor the goddess Eostre (the root of Easter), marking the cross to symbolize the quarters of the moon. In later times, when Christianity was in full bloom, Hot Cross Buns are eaten hot or toasted with the cross standing to symbolize the crucifixion of Christ. According to Elisabeth David, Protestant English monarchs saw the making and consuming of the buns to be a dangerous hold over of the Catholic belief, baking the dough with holy communion water. The government in England tried to ban the making and sale of the buns, but they had become so popular that Elisabeth I instead made a law to allow production and sale of Hot Cross Buns, only at the Christmas and Easter holiday. This was my first time making Hot Cross Buns, and as I always do, I researched recipes and history to the enth degree. First it was Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book, but though I love most of her writings, this one, using dry milk, did not seem right. Then I looked at Elise's recipe on her lovely site, Simply Recipes and this was closer to what I envisioned....but I did adapt the recipe pretty substantially to my own taste. In the end, I wrote a hybrid from numerous versions, and I am pretty happy with the result. I hope that you will be too. Citrus Hot Cross Buns 4 cups all-purpose flour 2 packages active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons each) 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/8 tsp ginger zest of one tangerine 3/4 cup milk 1/4 cup Straus butter, melted, 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, finely granulated 3 eggs 1/3 cup dried apricots 1/3 cup dried cranberries 1 slightly beaten egg white 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar zest of one tangerine Juice of three tangerines In a mixer bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, cinnamon, and cardamom. In a separate bowl, combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt, and heat to 120° F. Add to dry ingredients along with eggs, and beat at low speed until combined. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, then add dried fruit and enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead for 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise 1 hour, or til doubled.
Punch dough down; divide into 18 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball; place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise till double (30-45 minutes).
Brush rolls with egg white, then bake in a preheated 375° oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on a wire rack. Combine the confectioners sugar, tangerine zest and tangerine juice. Put into a ziplock bag and snip off a tiny piece of one corner. Pipe a cross onto each roll, making sure each roll is COMPLETELY cool or the icing will run. Let the icing harden.
Makes 18 rolls