I received an unexpected gift this Christmas from a few people that Dan works with: a copy of Martha Stewart’s Cookies. A lot of the treats I have baked in the last year found their way to Dan’s office and while I haven’t spent much time around his team, they all know me. It’s kind of funny to be known through my baking but then again it seems to fit. A few folks got together to buy me this book as a thank you for all of the goodies… and maybe as encouragement to bake more?
Well, their evil plan worked. Today, as a token of my gratitude, I baked them cookies (and so the cycle continues). Not just any cookies… chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies… the cookies from the cover of Martha Stewart’s Cookies. Have you seen the cover? If you have, you will understand why I went straight to the chewy chocolate gingerbread.
The other day, I watched Julia Child make a Queen of Sheba cake on the French Chef DVD set Dan gave me (also for Christmas). Julia said she liked to gather all of her ingredients onto a tray and take it off of the tray as she used it. That way she knew if anything was missing before she began, and she could easily see if she had forgotten to add an ingredient by looking at the tray.
I’ve never been very good at getting my mise en place together but decided to try it this time. Okay Julia, you win. It did make the process easier.
While I do like the convenience of already ground spices, if you grind your own you are rewarded with extra flavor and aroma as the spice releases it’s oils. And since I only have whole cloves at home for some reason (this is not on purpose but I refuse to buy the powdered stuff because I already have whole cloves), I popped a few cloves into my coffee grinder (which mostly gets used for spices because I’m not much of a coffee drinker). Voilà. My kitchen smelled like cloves for a couple of hours… which is really better than any potpourri.
The first whole spice I bought and ground or grated for myself was nutmeg. If you only buy one spice in its whole form, make it nutmeg. But be warned, it’s a gateway drug. Once you start using freshly grated spices you might have a hard time justifying the $5 half-sized bottle of ground cloves. By the way, whole spices keep longer than the already ground ones. (Sometime last year I went out and bought a microplane spice grater which I do use but is not at all necessary. It is handy for small jobs like grating nutmeg… just watch your knuckles).
Isn’t that beautiful?
Aside from a couple of bites in the name of quality control, all of the cookies got packed up and sent away. Most of them went into a box I picked up at Michael’s (it’s meant for cake slices like at a wedding so it’s about a 4-5 inch cube). I lined it with tissue paper to make it a little more festive… because it’s more fun to open a festive package.
Then I made a silly little tag with my favorite hole punches. And tied it all up with a green polka dot ribbon. I love playing with paper and glue. I don’t do it very often but it always makes me giddy (I was sad when I got a couple of smudges on my tag. I’m not sure if it was black ink or chocolate…).
Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
(adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies)
These cookies are a little more work than a standard chocolate chip cookie (which I’ve got down to a science) but the results are completely worth it. The ginger and chocolate come together to create a complex melody. The little kick from fresh ginger is rounded out by the sweetness of the chocolate. Holy yum, Batman!
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick or 1/4 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon freshly grated peeled ginger root
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (dark preferred)
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon boiling water
7 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about half a bag or just under 1 cup)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (for rolling)
- Sift together the flour, powdered ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and fresh ginger until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar, beat until combined. Add molasses and beat until combined.
- In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Set aside.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Beat in the dissolved baking soda. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat down into a rectangle that is about 1 inch thich. Chill dough in the refrigerator (wrapped in plastic) for 2 hours or overnight, until firm. [Note: 2 hours wasn’t really long enough for the dough to firm up. I was still able to work with it but it was still pretty sticky].
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mat (Silpat). Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Refrigerate baking sheets and dough balls for 20 minutes.
- Roll dough balls in granulated sugar and return to baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until surfaces crack slightly. If baking both sheets of cookies at the same time, rotate the sheets about halfway through. Let cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Send them away before you eat them all yourself.
- Cookies are best the day they are made but may be stored for up to 5 days in airtight containers.
- The dough is really sticky so you may want to try chilling it longer than 2 hours (which is what I did)