Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Baking Class: Ginger Bites

Ever since I started shopping at the Spice House when it opened down the street from the bookstore where I worked back in the late '90s, I have been intrigued by the crystallized ginger they always have on display at the counter. I would always take a piece and put it in my mouth, savoring the crunchy sweet exterior that gives way to the warm bite of the ginger itself. But I didn't really have any use for it, so I would always leave it, somewhat regretfully, on the counter.

When I ran into a recipe in Tish Boyle's The Good Cookie that specifically called for the candied ginger, my pulse actually ran a little faster. At last, I had a reason to bring some home with me! As soon as I could arrange it, I took a trip to Old Town and secured a package of the hot sweet treats.

Along with smoked sweet Spanish paprika, French thyme, and dill, none of which were on the agenda but what are you going to do? It's the Spice House. I consider myself lucky to have gotten out with so little, but I am on a budget after all so I couldn't splurge as much as I might have otherwise.

When I was mixing up the batter, I was skeptical about how these would turn out because even with the ginger there didn't seem to be much flavor in the batter. I rolled the batter into two logs and put them in the refrigerator to chill overnight. When I took them out of the refrigerator and started to cut out the cookies, the dough seemed a little dry and crumbled some, which I also took to be a not-so-good sign.

I cut the cookies too thick. I misread the directions, and instead of cutting them 3/8 of an inch wide, I cut them more like 3/4 of an inch. So if they seem a little thick in the photo above, that's because they are. About twice as thick as they should be.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when they turned out to be delicious. A tender, flaky cookie that melted in my mouth, leaving the residual bits of candied ginger to lend a sharp little bite of heat at the end. There wasn't as much heat as I would have liked, but I think that's because I cut the ginger too small, not because there wasn't enough of it. Next time I make them I will be sure to leave the ginger more coarse. I will also be sure to cut them the right size, so there will be twice as many to enjoy.

So far, I haven't been disappointed by the recipes in this book. They aren't fancy, but each one seems crafted to get the maximum flavor and texture from the ingredients, and they are clearly written and easy to follow. I would recommend it to any home baker.
Home Cookin Chapter: Cookies

GINGER BITES
Makes about 32 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butters and sugar at medium speed until light in texture and color, about two minutes. Beat in the crystallized ginger and lemon zest until combined. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until just blended.

Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into an 18-inch log that is 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches in diameter. Cut into two 9-inch logs. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, or up to three days.

Position two racks near the center of the oven and preheat to 325 deg. F.

Cut the logs into 3/8-inch-thick slices and place them on ungreased baking sheets about two inches apart.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, turning the sheets about halfway through baking, until the edges are lightly golden.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

from The Good Cookie, by Tish Boyle (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002

Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (www.mountain-software.com)


1 comment:

misreall said...

I have to make those. I have some homemade crystallized ginger I was given as a gift, and it looks at me reproachfully from time to time.

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