Friday, December 23, 2011

Cookie of the Month: Gingerbread Cookies!

Because of time constraints (and waistline constraints) I haven't made many cookies over the past few months. But it's holiday season, so it's time to make cookies—and what kind is more appropriate for the season than gingerbread? I consulted my trusty Better Homes & Gardens recipe book:

5 cups all-purpose flour
1½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1 cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2 T. vinegar

Beat shortening for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, molasses, and vinegar; beat well. Add dry ingredients (flour, spices, soda, salt) and beat well. (I was so glad I had my trusty KitchenAid for this step; adding 5 cups of flour to any recipe is too much for my poor wrists and elbows.) Cover and chill 3 hours or overnight. You'll end up with a stiff mass, like in the picture here.

Divide dough into thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll each third of dough to a ⅛-inch thickness. (Keep remainder chilled.) Cut into desired shapes.

Baker's note: This is always the challenging part for me: trying to keep the dough even. At least with cookies, you don't have to spread the dough evenly, and when you have extra you can re-roll it. In that fashion, I would roll and cut, roll and cut, roll and cut, until I ran out of dough. The recipe said "Makes 60"; since I used bigger cutters, I probably had more around four dozen.
Place cut-out dough one inch apart on greased cookie sheet (or ungreased well-used stone, as I have). Bake in a 375° F oven for 5 to 6 minutes. Cool one minute; remove to a wire rack.

You end up with some really tasty cookies. While they were baking, and since I didn't know how they would taste, I thought they might need some glaze. I made a simple confectioners' sugar-and-water glaze and brushed it over some of the cookies. The picture to the left shows an unglazed on top, the glazed on the bottom. The cookies were actually pretty tasty without the glaze; nice and chewy, not too sweet and nicely spicy, and very addicting. This would be a great recipe to use for gingerbread houses, trains, or other construction—if you can bear holding off on eating them.

Final verdict: nom nom nom nom nom (five of five noms).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Photo of the Week--12/19/11

Again, Mother Nature takes your architectural flourishes, your cornices and finials and whatnot, and says, "Yeah, babe, I did it first." I took this picture on the Glacier El Martial near Ushuaia, the southernmost town in Argentina. It was December, the beginning of summer, and so much of the snow had melted as we walked around the lovely scenery on the mountain. I found this stand of trees, so marvelously knotted and twisted, and couldn't resist snapping a shot.