Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gingerbread Little Cakes

I have this cookbook that I have never used before, called Baking in America
by Greg Patent. It contains "traditional and contemporary favorites from the past 200 years." It sounded like a book I should own, I suppose, given that it has a bunch of old-fashioned recipes and their histories.

A couple months ago, when Ranch Hand was reminiscing about some little cookies his mother had made when he was a child, I was intrigued. Since he is pushing 60, I figured the recipe had to be in this book, and I asked him for a better description. He said they were almost like a cake, and they had weird chewy things in them that "weren't raisins." I showed him the recipe for Gingerbread Little Cakes, and although he had no idea at all how his mother had made them, he said the description sounded similar. I decided I would try them sometime and see if the "little cakes" were what he remembered.

I made a double batch of these little cakes, in the shape of cowboy hats, since we're having a ranch dinner tonight: Wifey's making tacos. And although little ginger cookie/cake things don't really "go" with Mexican food, I really wanted to try them out. Plus all of Ranch Hand and Wifey's kids are here, so it would be neat if they really are what Ranch Hand remembers his mom making. Don't you think?

So...Ranch Hand said the shape was "throwing him off;" his mom made them in a sheet pan and cut them into diamond shapes. I think this would also make the cookies less crunchy on the edges, which isn't good or bad, but if you have a specific memory of a nice soft, cakey cookie, the little cowboy hats have some crunchy edges. The cookies are so good, I will definitely make them again, perhaps not chopping the ginger so finely, and also baking them as bar cookies in a pan. Ranch Hand said they are "very close" to what he remembered. I think if they were bar cookies, they just might be "the ones." Yeehaw!

Gingerbread Little Cakes
Makes about 24 cookies.

In the old days, many types of cookies were called cakes, and gingerbread was made from a dough, cut into various shapes, and baked. What we call gingerbread--the moist and spicy cake--didn't become popular until the late 1800's, after the development of baking powder and baking soda. These cookies are soft and spicy, with an extra kick from crystallized ginger. They are easily made in a saucepan.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 tablespoon-sized pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Combine 1 tablespoon of the flour with the crystallized ginger in a small bowl and toss to coat; set aside.

2. Combine the brown sugar, molasses, ground ginger, cinnamon and cardamom in a medium heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Immediately add the baking soda and stir as the mixture becomes thick and foamy and rises to the top of the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Stir in the egg. Gradually stir in the remaining flour in 3 or 4 additions, adding the chopped ginger after the second addition. The dough will be stiff. (they're not kidding, it's difficult)

3. Scrap the dough onto sheet of waxed paper and knead it briefly to mix well. Cool to room temperature.

4. Adjust two oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with cooking parchment or silicone liners.

5. Transfer the dough to an unfloured work surface and pat or roll it to a 3/8-inch thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to the baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Gather the scraps, pat or roll them out again, and cut more cookies.

6. Bake for about 15 minutes, reversing the sheets from top to bottom and front to back once during baking, until the cookies look puffy and feel soft; do not overbake. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then, with a wide metal spatula, carefully transfer them to racks to cool completely. Store airtight. These keep fresh for days.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin