Chewy Cinnamon Ginger Cookies

TECHNIQUE TUESDAY

(okay, technically Wednesday…I’m a day behind)

So, I was recently told by a friend that I didn’t have any cookie recipes on my blog. What?!? She’s craaaaazzzzyyyy… when I was a teenager, the one thing I always made while I fantasized about being on my own cooking show was cookies.

Then I checked. Seriously? How has my blog survived for this long without a cookie recipe? Sheesh!

So, here are some IMPORTANT tips about making cookies. Seriously. Learn them. Love them. Live them.

Rule #1: Margarine, or butter spread IS NOT butter. Butter is only the stuff that says “Butter” on the label, and the ingredients are cream and salt. Or just cream, if it’s unsalted butter. Nothing else will work if your recipe calls for butter. And, to be honest, only recipes that call for butter are worth making. Sorry my vegan friends…

Rule #2: In all baking recipes that call for butter, what they mean is UNSALTED butter, unless designated. Personally, I almost always use salted, then cut the salt measurement in half. In my recipes, I tend to note salted butter, because I’m a rebel.

Rule #3: Okay, another one about butter…the butter should be room temp. It should be soft, but not melty. I take my butter out of the fridge about 30 minutes before making cookies. You can take your eggs out at the same time, as I have read countless remarks by professional bakers that eggs should always be room temp (though I have made thousands of cookies with cold eggs in my lifetime that were pretty dang good). You should be able to press into the butter easily, but it should not completely collapse or fall apart when you touch it. If you HAVE TO use the micro, zap it for 6 seconds or so, then whip it with your mixer until it’s smooth and has no lumps before adding your sugar.

Rule #4: MIXING: This is KEY to tender cookies. When mixing in the dry ingredients (quick lesson on cookie making: it will almost always go like this: Beat together sugar and butter, add egg and vanilla, mix in “dry” ingredients, then fold in chunks). DO NOT over mix. (YES, I realize that I MAY be overUSING my caps button…But these things are IMPORTANT! I take cookie baking VERY seriously).

For perfect cookies that aren’t tough, mix dry ingredients just until the flour almost disappears…so you still see some remnants of flour (not big chunks, but sprinkling throughout) in your dough. Stop mixing (especially if you are using a stand or hand mixer). Now is when you add your chunks: fruit, chocolate chips, nuts (heaven forbid…nuts do not belong in cookies, you crazy person). Then  finish the mixing BY HAND. Do not overmix the dough.

Rule #5: Pull the cookies out when the outside is cooked, but the inside is still moist. They will still be cooking when you pull them out of the oven, and will finish cooking as they cool. I posted pictures on this. You should still be able to see a glistening of moisture in the cracks, but the outside is cooked and the edges are firm. If you are a novice to cookie baking, this takes some observation and practice. Pretty soon, you’ll know exactly how they should look when it’s time to take them out.

Rule #6: This is a bonus baking rule that popped into my mind while writing the above rule. The time given in a recipe is an ESTIMATE. Everyone’s oven is different, everyone lives in a different climate (well, except for those who live in the same climate as you, you know what I mean…), the ingredient measurements will vary slightly, different pans cook differently, etc. You should use the time as a guideline, but your nose and your eyes, and sometimes your hands, have the final say on when something is done. I always trust my nose. As soon as I start to smell whatever I’m baking, I go check on it. If you’re making a cake or quick bread, use a knife or wooden skewer or toothpick to see if the inside is done. For cookies, start checking 2 minutes before the designated time. so, for these cookies, start checking at 8 minutes. They could go as long as 12 minutes, depending on your oven, etc.

Speaking of THESE cookies…

These are a crowd pleaser. They are something different when you don’t have chocolate chips and aren’t in the mood for peanut butter cookies or snickerdoodles. They are crisp on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside and have just the right amount of spice and sweetness. They are perfect with a tall glass of cold milk. (But, who am I kidding, aren’t all cookies)?

CHEWY CINNAMON GINGER COOKIES

1 cup salted butter (or you can use unsalted and add 1/4 tsp of salt), room temp
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBS molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 TBS cinnamon
1/2 TBS ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer, beat your butter and sugar for 3 minutes until it’s fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and molasses and mix well. Add in your flour, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger. Mix only until the flour is mostly incorporated. Finish the mixing by hand, and stop immediately when the flour disappears. Drop by heaping spoonfuls on a foil- or parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack.

Technique Tuesday: Whipping Cream

When I was a little girl, I didn’t know cool whip existed. Every Thanksgiving, my mom would make fruit salad with whipped cream. I grew up knowing the tricks: chill the bowl, make sure it’s clean, etc. Nowadays, they add stabilizers to the cream we buy in the grocery store that helps it whip and stay whipped, but I still think knowing the old school tips is important to avoid a runny mess instead of billowing peaks of sweet cream.

First, when you go to the store to buy whipping cream, you’ll notice a few different types. There is “Whipping Cream” which is 30% butterfat. It will whip just fine if you use the tips I’ll share, but it takes longer, and doesn’t hold up as well in the fridge (like for leftover pumpkin pie). It tends to deflate and separate a little. But, it still works. Heavy Cream or Heavy Whipping Cream has a higher butterfat content. It whips easily and hold up better for longer lengths of time. You may see “Bavarian Style” Heavy Whipping Cream. This is Heavy whipping cream with added sugar and vanilla flavorings. You may also see a difference in pasteurization. Cream comes in pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized. The better choice is pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurized is not as stable once whipped, but can stay in your fridge for longer. Unless you plan to buy cream in bulk and store it in your fridge for many months, there is no reason to buy the ultra-pasteurized. Also, the normal pasteurized has better flavor and texture.

When it comes to whipping, it’s all about two things: cold and clean. Any oil in your bowl or on your beaters will impede the cream from whipping. Also, the colder your cream, bowl and beaters, the quicker the process. If you have a metal bowl, you can stick it in the fridge or freezer while prepping other food item to speed up the whipping process. It’s important to watch the cream while whipping. If you whip it too long, it turns to butter (yep, that’s what butter is, churned cream). If real whipped cream is new to you, understand that it is not sweetened (unless you get the bavarian style). You can add powdered sugar to it, a little at a time, while whipping, until it’s desired sweetness. You can also add honey or liquid extracts while whipping to flavor it.

On to the whipping!! Easy: pour it in a bowl, beat on highest speed until thick. Knowing what “thick” means is the trick, and comes with practice. Hopefully, my pictures will help you.

Pour cream into your bowl (clean and cold). Be sure you have a large bowl. Cream can up to quadruple it’s volume when whipped.

Turn your beaters onto the highest speed. Following are pictures taken at various stages:

At this point, you may think it’s done. Keep going until it looks like this:

See how strong the structure is? It piles up in little mounds, but isn’t butter (yet). That’s what you want it to look like.

Here is another view of how it looks on the beaters:

It’s thick, but still “drips” in it’s form.

The form is right, it’s mounding instead of dripping, but is still pretty soft.

See the difference in the thickness? It holds it’s shape, and doesn’t fall through the beaters. that’s what you want. The trick is to not keep going and make butter. If you do, throw some salt and honey in it and make cornbread for dinner!

 

Technique Tuesday: Cutting a Mango

We love mangos. They can be a pain in the tush to eat, though. You can peel them and gnaw the flesh off the seed while juice drips down your chin and fibers get stuck in your teeth. You can peel them and then attempt to slice the flesh off while it slips out of your hands over and over again and soon your counter top is awash is sticky orange goodness. How in the world do you eat these things?

First, info on mangoes: with all produce, you know if it’s good by smelling it. That’s what you hear all of the time. The problem is, in our crazy society, they refrigerate produce in order to extend its life and ship it to places it doesn’t grow. When I go to my grocery store to buy mangoes, they almost always are fairly cold and you can’t smell any scent coming off of them. That makes it difficult to find which ones are ripe and which ones are just bruised. First: color is not always an indicator of ripeness. It can be mostly green on the outside and still ripe. There are also different varieties that are different colors, from green and red, to orange and yellow. You want to avoid mangoes with blemishes or dark spots. Gently press and feel if it’s soft, but not mushy. That indicates a ripe mango. Mango season is summer, so try to make your mango dishes then, when the mangoes are the freshest.

On to the cutting! The mango is oblong. A long skinny seed runs most of the length of the mango, and it’s about 1/3- 1/4 of the width. Start by setting your mango on end on a cutting board. Cut through the skin and as close to the seed as you can (without nicking the seed), slicing off one side.

I tend to cut concave, not straight, to get as much of the flesh as possible. Next, do the same for the other side.

Now, take each half-moon side and score the flesh to the desired size. I like big chunks, but you can cut small dice size if you need to.

From here, I push the skin up (see pic) then use my fingers (but you can use a spoon, if you’re so inclined. I’m lazy and don’t like washing extra dishes) to dislodge the pieces from the skin. The last step is optional, and depends on your mango. Sometimes it’s not worth the effort, but there is still flesh attached to the seed, mostly along the sides where there is still skin attached.

To get that yummy goodness, first, cut through the last piece of skin and peel it off (like above). Then, slice off any remaining flesh from the seed. I tend to do this at an angle, so you’re not cutting chunks of seed off.

Repeat until you’ve cut off all of the flesh you can. The closer to the seed, the more fibrous the flesh is, so you can totally skip this step if you want. I don’t like to get too close to the seed, personally. I’ve also had mangoes that don’t have much left over. This one was very ripe and had plenty.

I would say that you’re done, but then I’d skip my husband’s favorite part of cutting mangoes: gnawing what’s left off the seed. We never throw the seed away until hubby or a kiddo gets their paws on it and chews every last fibrous piece off the pit. (I spared you that picture). Did I mention we love mangoes in our house?

Technique Tuesdays: Double Boiler. Recipe: Creamy Lemon Curd

Technique Tuesday:

Double Boiler

Lemon Curd is a great companion to Irish Soda Farls that we make each St. Patrick’s Day. Curd is essential a fruit custard made with egg yolks. This recipe calls for a double boiler. I don’t know about you, I don’t know anyone who owns an actual double boiler. It isn’t even necessary as long as you have a sauce pot and metal bowl that fit together nicely. You’ll notice in the picture below the recipe my very dirty stove. You will also notice how the “double boiler” should look. You do not want the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Essentially, the point of a double boiler is to heat something using indirect heat, to avoid it scorching or curdling. It’s used to melt chocolate and make custards, among other things. The custard is heated by the steam created by the boiling water underneath.

This lemon curd recipe results in a creamy curd, not the gelatinous kind many use for a lemon meringue pie. It’s perfect for a topping for breads or as a spread.

CREAMY LEMON CURD

5 eggs yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 TBS lemon zest
4 TBS butter, cut into pats and chilled

Fill a small pot with about an inch of water, place on the stove over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a metal bowl that fits on top of your pot, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk well, until light and creamy. For smooth curd, pour the juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove any pulp. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest. When the water comes to a boil, quickly reduce heat to low, to keep to a simmer. Place bowl on pot and whisk continually until thick. This takes about 10 minutes, but will vary. You know it’s ready when it thickly coats the back of a spoon or reached 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add in the butter, one pat at a time, stirring each until it melts before adding the next pat. Pour into a container or bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface of the curd. Refrigerate until cool.

printable version