Saturday, September 10, 2011

Oh Snap!

Gingersnaps that is.  Today's post is going to delve into the food side of the blog.  I thought I'd start with one of my absolute favorite cookies.  Fall has definitely been in the air here in the South lately, which puts me in the mood for baking.  I can feel my annual holiday cookie frenzy just around the corner. (Just ignore my twitch.)

What You'll Need
1 medium mixing bowl                                                     1 large mixing bowl
Measuring cups and spoons                                             1 cookie sheet (nonstick)
A whisk or sifter                                                              A beloved mixing spoon

2 cups all-purpose flour                                                   1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground ginger                                                      3/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 tsp baking soda                                                             1 cup sugar + some for rolling
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon                                                          1 egg
1/2 tsp ground cloves                                                      1/4 cup molasses

Now Let's Make Cookies (Mmmmmm... coooookiess)
To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. This is the hardest part; seriously, I always forget.

Whisk, whisk, whisk!
Now, in your medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.  You may also choose to sift the ingredients together, but I usually choose whisking because it's less messy and just as effective.  (Also, I have no idea where my sifter is at the moment.  Heh heh).  Set the dry ingredients aside.

Effectively beaten shortening
Beaten til fluffy. Violence!
In your large mixing bowl,  beat the shortening until it's soft.  Try to keep it in a concentrated area of the bowl.  The more it spreads out, the more scraping of sides you'll have to do later when you're trying to mix in all the other ingredients.  Since it's vegetable shortening it should already be fairly soft, unless you have been storing it somewhere cold.

Now you're going to add that cup of sugar.  Gradually.  I usually do this at about 1/4 cup at a time, measuring as I go, but you're welcome to choose your increments; the important thing is to not just dump it all in there.  After each addition, beat the sugar into the shortening.  By the time you're through, the mixture should be light and fluffy.

Add the egg and molasses. Mix this in thoroughly; you don't want any pockets of liquid. (There was going to be a photo for this step, but it looked a wee bit gross on film, so I refrained. You're welcome.)

This is nothing like chocolate chip
Grab your flour mix from earlier in the recipe and dump it onto the shortening mixture.  Again, mix this in thoroughly; there should be no pockets of flour or excessively dry bits.  I do this with my favorite (and well loved) mixing spoon, pictured above; however, you could easily do this with a mixer set to medium low.  It's a dryer batter, so I prefer low tech here.  When you're done, you should have a stiff, caramel colored batter.  Scrape any remaining batter off your spoon and into the bowl.

Set your dough to one side.  Take your flour bowl and wipe out any remnants of the dry ingredients.  Add about 1/4 cup of sugar to the bowl. If you haven't washed your hands yet (for shame!), do so now as you'll be handling the dough quite a bit. Pinch off a small amount of dough and roll it between your hands to form a ball 1" in diameter.  If the dough is falling apart, squish it a few times in your hand before rolling it into a ball. Place it in the sugar bowl.

Roll the ball in the sugar until it is lightly but evenly coated in sugar granules.  I usually do about three balls at a time, but there's no firm rule.  Once the ball is covered, place it on a cookie sheet.  Your dough balls should be placed at least an inch to and inch and a half apart on your sheet.  Repeat this process until your dough is gone.  The recipe should yield about two sheets worth of cookies.

Bake each sheet in the oven at 350F for about 9-10 minutes.  I bake one sheet at a time, as it typically yields more uniform results, and you are less likely to burn or undercook your sheet of cookies. The cookies will be
Cooling Cookies
quite soft when fresh out of the oven and will have cracking surfaces.  Let it sit on the tray for a few seconds to solidify and then remove the cookies to cool.  If you're lucky enough to have a cooling rack, place the cookies there.  However, paper towels on top of a clean counter work just as well and have the added benefit of absorbing any greasiness. As the cookies cool, they will harden into their snappy goodness and you can place them in a convenient container.

Now you're ready to settle down on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket with a good book and a plate of homemade gingersnaps by your side. NOM!


You know you want to . . .