Ginger Molasses Cookies

October 18, 2012 § 1 Comment


I’ve spent the morning in one of the really comfy leather couches of my eating club, drinking coffee and perusing Miss Moss, a fashion/design/photography blog I recently discovered through a girl sitting next to me in seminar. I’ve spent the afternoon pouring through a thrift shop, looking for Audrey Hepburn long white gloves and pearl necklaces, but coming up with an ugly Christmas sweater with jingling reindeer instead. And the evening again, back to browsing through pages of Miss Moss, shopping for scarves online (I’m going at a rate of one new scarf a week, which is justified, I believe, because I wear them every, single day), and drinking Baileys out of an orange Solo cup, courtesy of my British friend reminiscing about Oxford Wednesday traditions of pancakes and Baileys.

Even with all of the homecoming events coming up this weekend, the threat of midterms next week, and countless other activities I feel like I should be excited about, I’m eagerly looking forward to getting off campus for a bit at the end of the month. I’d rather be buying play tickets and making dinner reservations for New York, or day dreaming about the quaintness of Portland, Maine, or just sitting around in Boston with my best friend, so I can stop calling her in panic mode every other day, dreaming of fall sunsets, which admittedly occur here too in glorious colors but lately I’ve been so lost in care that things like this tend to escape my notice. Still, tonight was one of those Halloween type nights, with a glowing moon and shadowing branchy trees cutting the orange sky.

Normally, I love fall in the Northeast, a season I never had growing up in San Francisco. I loved the crackle underfoot and in the crisp air. It felt homey, without ever reminding me of home. This year, there is something unbearably nostalgic about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s that feeling of being so lost in thought that I barely even notice what is going on around me. It’s that feeling that I need to see the water, breathe the ocean, that I can’t shake. This year, homey just won’t do — it will have to be home.

And so home. The Pacific Coast. The sunset hidden by layers of fog and mist that cannot be shaken. Ginger molasses cookies. Because that’s one of the first things I learned how to bake and they will always be my favorite. The only cookies I made in high school after coming home on Saturday mornings, after cross-country practice in Golden Gate Park. Crackly tops, rolled in sugar crystal. Spicy (I grated crystallized ginger into them) and dark sticky molasses. Is it Christmas yet?

The French eat too

December 8, 2010 § 1 Comment


There are few things that make me happier than a group of rail-thin French women cooing with delight and diving into slices of a warm American pecan pie for their petit gouter alongside steaming cups of thé vert. Or when they profess to adore carrot cake, cream cheese frosting and all, and suggest I open up an American style bakery in Paris, because they just know it would be a huge success. Indeed there are several American-style places here, if you want to search out bagels and brownies — which seem to be the main focus — but few places to buy ingredients with which to make your favorite American treats. It’s surprising what Americans seem to feel they need imported — the likes of Betty Crocker icings in all flavors, yellow cake mixes, and colored marshmallows, although I think it was the French girls that were cooing over those in the Etats-Unis aisle of La Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marché.

But it was on that aisle that I finally found Grandma’s molasses and ordinary corn syrup, which are both still practically unheard of here. Actually I take that back. The minute you say corn syrup here, you get a quick intake of breath and a mumbled “c’est pas bon pour la santé” as if the pound of butter dumped in every French dish is bon pour la santé. So needless to say, you don’t see any French women dumping the container of corn syrup into their tarte fillings — because tart is the closest approximation I can find to pie — but they won’t hesitate to eat it when it’s placed in front of them in the form of this gooey-still-warm-from-the-oven tart that the little American girl brought in this morning. Because, eating is, afterall, about indulgence.

This pecan pie — or pecan squares as they go in my house — is a classic on my family’s Thanksgiving table. It has a strong molasses flavor and is packed full of pecans, avoiding that gooey, far-too-sweet layer of sugar and corn syrup that many pecan pies pack in the middle. Nothing horrifies me more than a badly made pecan pie, with a thick layer of cooked sugar and a sprinkling of nuts on top. I may have Frenchified the classic a bit by making a tart crust with a generous amount of sugar and egg, instead of the simple butter-and-flour combo my dad uses, and baking it in a fluted, rectangular tart pan instead of a brownie pan.

But either way, this is the way to go come Thanksgiving (or for me, come breakfast) no matter where you live. A couple of weeks late to the Thanksgiving post, but there you go. Now excuse me while I eat the last piece with my cup of tea for breakfast. Can’t be worse for you than a café crème with a half a baguette, split down the middle and spread liberally with butter right?

Pecan Squares
Adapted from Jeremiah Tower’s New American Classics

2 eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (or half unsulphered molasses, half corn syrup)
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecan pieces

One recipe of Pasta Frolla pastry dough or simply use your fingers to combine cold butter and flour until you achieve a shortbread-like consistency.

If using a crust made of just butter and flour (combine until crumbly and the dough stips together when you press it with your fingertips), bake pastry shell until golden (about 10-20 minutes) at 350 degrees Farenheit.
If using the Pastra Frolla, there is no need to pre-bake the pastry shell, just follow the directions here and press the rolled-out dough into the tart pan and fill.
Make sure your tart shell has no little holes as the filling with leak and burn in your oven.

Melt butter over the stovetop and set aside. Combine eggs and sugar. Add corn syrup, salt, bourbon, butter, and vanilla. Stir in pecans. Pour the filling into the pastry shell. Bake until mostly set at 350 degrees Farenheit, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool before cutting.

Old-fashioned blueberry cake

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I made the decision to start eating healthy again, I never imagined what would be the first cake recipe to fall in my lap. It is almost as if fate meant for me to make a diet change right at that very instant, meant for me to sort through our bins of whole grain flours, meant for me to skip right over the white sugar—and even the brown sugar, and land on a jar of unsulfured molasses. It meant for me to be browsing 101 Cookbooks at that very minute and open I recipe I had never thought to open before, despite the many times I have scoured the site for wholesome baked goods and sorted though dinner recipes, even knowing that I would never cook them because, let’s face it, I don’t cook. But at that very moment, I opened up this recipe for Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cake and I knew the palate had changed.

If you do not love molasses, I suggest you stop here. This cake is not for you. It is entirely sweetened with molasses, which lends it a deep, dark color, so dark in fact you would swear it’s chocolate on looking at it. But that first bite, through the crunch of the walnut topping, reveals that that darkness is not chocolate at all. And you are not disappointed at the discovery. Because just when you thought someone so healthy could not be so deeply satisfying, you take another bite of cake and the flavors that were so unexpected in the first bite become wonderfully addicting in the second. It’s rustic, it’s hearty, it’s not for the faint-hearted (in the flavor sense of the idea, not in the butter content) and it’s, dare I say it, pretty quaint. And it’s one of those cakes that you have to cut off three tablespoons of butter from the stick, instead of just throwing the entire stick (or two) in the bowl. Have you ever noticed that most recipes call for either ½ cup or 1 cup of butter, conveniently the size of a stick of butter or two? I wonder who came up with that. Was it the recipe writers or the butter packagers?

But back on subject, you should make this cake. With more blueberries than I used, because blueberries have a habit of disappearing (read: I have a habit of eating them by the handful) when I am baking with them. And with the chopped walnuts on top, though I think many other nuts would do, sprinkled with (okay, I admit it) maybe a teaspoon of brown sugar. And bake it in one of your prettiest pans, because this cake deserves it.

This cake accompanied me to my old high school’s English office, alongside my travel journal, which I have been jamming full of sights, restaurants and many, many bakeries, to visit during the coming year. I have a Paris section (of course) and a Provence section (of course). And then there is Venice and Wales and Barcelona. And so many others that I am afraid I am trying to go everywhere, but I just can’t pick up a travel magazine and not want to go everywhere it writes about. I wonder if the French like molasses. I packed a jar of peanut butter and another of maple syrup, but now I am on the plane wondering if I needed to bring molasses too. I hope not.

Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cake
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
5 tablespoons milk (divided)
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, barely melted

1 1/2 cups blueberries, frozen (I freeze fresh berries)
1 teaspoon flour

For the topping:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or a small rectangular pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl combine the cider vinegar with 3 tablespoons of the milk. In another bowl combine the molasses with the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk. Add the cider vinegar mixture into the molasses mixture, then whisk in the eggs.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just barely combined. Stir in the butter. Fold the blueberries, tossed with the small amount of flour, into the batter. Top the batter with the chopped walnuts and sprinkle with the brown sugar.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about thirty minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean.

My week of ginger cookies

July 27, 2010 § 1 Comment



You know how some kinds of cookies are just seasonal? Like you are only supposed to make gingerbread around Christmastime, when it’s cold out and you are huddled by the fireplace to keep warm. Well I don’t believe in seasonal. I would like to dress like it is summer every day of the winter. And make gingerbread every day of the summer.

Ginger cookies might well be my favorite kind of cookies, as well as a favorite of my brother’s. The smell of molasses and ginger in the kitchen is, for me, the ultimate comfort. I used to spend Saturday mornings in 9th grade baking gingerbread men before I even knew I liked the taste of gingerbread; I just knew they were supposed to epitomize Christmas, and Christmastime always brings you back home, where you belong. I used to argue with my brother over which cookie cutters to use — whether it was a bells and stars day (me) or an elephant day (the brother). I would liberally drizzle each cookie with icing, leaving extra icing in the cracks between the leaves of the table sticky. This took forever to clean up, not that I was often the one to do the cleaning.

But when we think about gingerbread men, we often overlook the other ginger cookie. These ginger molasses cookies, with the crackly sugarcoated outside and the chewy center, are what I turn to when I’m stressed out, upset, otherwise feeling under the weather. After several days of buying huge ginger cookies from the Firehook Bakery after work, I finally decided it was about time to start baking again.

I’m afraid I don’t actually have a recipe for these. You see, I started off with this recipe for Molasses Cookies from SammyW and distractedly added almost twice the amount of molasses necessary. So I upped the flour, spices and baking soda until the cookie dough felt and tasted right. While I ended up making a TON of cookies, they are all gone today; yet somehow, even without another cookie to look forward to, the week is looking up again.

Say goodbye to home: Whole grain breads

June 9, 2010 § 1 Comment




Awhile ago I mentioned that my family had started baking our own bread. While I was home we made a couple loaves a week, the first being a molasses rye bread and the second a honey whole-wheat walnut bread. I can now honestly say that I do not think I will ever be scared of yeast again. It’s like a baby. Set it in a bowl with a little warm water and a sugar to consume and it will grow, flourish, and make beautiful, tall loaves of bread. To be eaten right out of the oven, still warm and slathered in butter. Bread is one of those wonderful foods whose smell just radiates the feeling of being home. I think it will be the first thing I make in my new house in Washington D.C. (I just moved in two days ago!).

Bring along some trail mix: Chockablock cookies

May 21, 2010 § 4 Comments



I really like Seattle, though I have a very limited view of the city from my seat in the airport. But I know the Seattle Airport has free Wi-Fi and that’s enough to make me love a city. I mean, I’m blogging from the airport.

But I didn’t make these cookies in the airport, though they are high-flying travelers themselves. These cookies are currently on their way in a US Postal box to Princeton, more specifically to one of my best friend’s mailboxes. She is probably one of the most indecisive people I’ve ever met, so it is fitting that these are her cookies, because they are the ultimate cookies of the indecisive. The recipe gives liberty to decide what kind of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate to use and, well, my indecisiveness kind of ran away with it. I used peanuts, dried cranberries, Reese’s Pieces and both dark and milk chocolate chunks, all wrapped up in a molassesy, oaty, coconutty dough. Technically, it’s a Chockablock cookie but it sounds more like crazy intense trail mix to me.

These are different than a standard everything (or compost) cookie because of the addition of molasses. There is quite a bit in there, giving the cookie a really interesting new dimension that is, at first, quite surprising. Dorie and Dorie’s Tuesday Bakers all seem to think this is a cookie everyone will like but my brother was definitely making faces as the dough came together. I think maybe a lighter molasses might be better for this recipe although I was careful not to use blackstrap. I’m a big molasses person (my favorite cookies are gingerbread and soft, chewy molasses cookies) but it does seem a bit strong and out of place here. But my Gran does love them as is, so I guess it’s all up to you.

Chockablock Cookies

Dorie Greenspan, from Baking From My Home to Yours

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup solid vegetable shortening (I substituted butter)
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or peanuts are all good)
1 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, prunes, or figs) or 1 cup of moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chopped, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut (I used unsweetened because that is what I had on hand)

Position the racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening together at medium speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another two minutes. Pour in the molasses and beat for 1 minute more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the oats, then add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Toss in the nuts, fruit, chocolate chips and coconut and, turn the mixer on and off quickly a few times to incorporate. Alternatively, you can stir them into the dough with a sturdy wooden spatula. (The dough can be wrapped well and chilled for up to two days. If you’d like, you can measure out the dough onto a baking sheet, freeze until firm, then put mounds of dough in a bag and freeze for up to two months; bake directly out of the freezer, adding a few minutes to the baking time.)
Place the 2-tablespoon mounds of dough on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the mounds. (I think my cookies were a bit smaller which worked out just fine)
Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until the cookies are golden and just about set. Remove the baking sheets to cooling racks and let the cookies rest on the sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool to room temperature.

My cookies definitely weren’t golden, which leads me to believe I was using the wrong kind of molasses.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with molasses at Soufflé Days.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 228 other followers