Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ginger vs. Honey: The Tale of the Gingerdoodle

Whenever I go shopping, I tend to shop in themes. By this, I mean if the first item I select happens to be some shade of blue and lacy, there is a high probability that another item in the batch will match that. By the time I wrap up the trip, I’ll have about three blue lace tops that all look rather similar from a distance but are very uniquely different in my eyes… The theme of the day is blue lace.

Similarly, I once thought of baking in themes. I thought of segments in which every day/week/month I would make something that fell within certain guidelines… Maize and Blue Saturdays was a theme throughout last year’s football season. Happy Hour Fridays with alcoholic ingredients once crossed my mind. Baking with “super foods” was another thought.

Clearly, I haven’t been baking in themes much, although occasionally I may bake one or two treats that have similar or complementing elements within the same short period of time. Like my shopping spurts, these occasions aren’t so much carefully planned in advance as they are about my taste or preference of the moment. For example, in the fall, I often like to utilize pumpkin and cinnamon… Who doesn’t?

Over the last few weeks, I found myself making a number of related sweets that fell very much into a theme. So much so, that I began to wonder how I was going to package them all. How I was going to introduce each to you in a way that moved seamlessly.

Then I stopped thinking and started writing. I find it’s much easier and far more therapeutic to pour out my thoughts however cluttered and unpolished they may be and worry about packaging and cleaning it all up later.

Ernest Hemingway captured this concept better than anyone when he said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Blood aside, I've found my own writing is best when I don't think too much about it. Lots of careful planning beforehand (sometimes), but uncomplicated and unmeasured thoughts in the moment.

Back to the theme of today (and the other day and probably a few more days to come): Ginger.

As mentioned before, my candied ginger adventure yielded a batch of candied ginger pieces, ginger scented sugar and ginger syrup. Also mentioned before, I’m on a quest to find (or create) the perfect chewy cookie.

A few weeks ago, I made a batch of chewy graham cracker cookies, adapting a recipe from My Kitchen Addiction. While I enjoyed the cookies tremendously, I didn’t make the time to write about them and share with you partially because it’s been a busy few weeks and partially because I already knew I wanted to try the recipe again with some additional tweaking.

While they were chewy and sweet and at least one person declared them to be the best cookies he’s ever had in his life, I found the honey flavor to be a little overpowering. Although I like a spoonful added to tea when I’m sick or a good drizzle over my Greek yogurt, I’m not a huge fan of honey. Sometimes I just find it to be a little too sickly sweet.

After Operation Candied Ginger, I found myself with a Mason jar half filled with ginger syrup and no carbonation machine (to make my own ginger ale of course). My roommate suggested using the ginger syrup in place of some of the honey in the same graham cracker cookie recipe we’d both enjoyed. Genius, right!?

I whipped up another two batches of cookies — one using just honey (though a little less than I’d used with the first batch) and one using two parts ginger syrup and one part honey.  I brought these to work labeled A and B and invited coworkers to try both kinds before I divulged the subtle differences between the two.

What I found was that just over half of the office preferred the more gingery cookies, but everyone though both kinds were phenomenal.

My advice to you, if you are a ginger lover and up to the challenge of making your own ginger (highly rewarding and recommended), make these cookies. If honey is more your thing, replace the ginger syrup with the same amount of honey, cut the powdered ginger, and roll the cookies through cinnamon sugar instead of the ginger sugar.

Chewy Gingerdoodle Cookies (recipe adpated from My Kitchen Addiction)
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons ginger syrup (from candy ginger process)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • ginger-flavored sugar for rolling (from candy ginger process)
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper 
  • In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugars, honey, and ginger syrup
  • Add egg and beat until incorporated
  • In a small bowl, sift together all dry ingredients and add to butter mixture, mixing until incorporated
  • Using a teaspoon to help, make small balls of of dough, roll them through ginger sugar and arrange on a baking sheet with at least one inch spaces
  • Bake for 9-10 minutes or until edges just begin to brown
  • After cooling for 1-2 minutes on baking sheet, move cookies to a wire rack to cool completely
Happy Baking and Ginger Making!

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