Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve, 2013

I'm sitting on our couch at home, sipping hot honeyed milk and licking cookie crumbs from my lips. The dog and one of the cats are asleep at my feet. I'm on a break from work. The kitchen's a mess, the tree is up, and I'm mostly done with Christmas shopping. My mom's present is simply going to have to be an epiphany gift.
Santa's cookies this year are old fashioned gingers- if I leave any for him, that is. The flavor and texture remind me of pfefernusse, a German spiced cookie and my favorite holiday treat. In past years, I've thrown a bag (or three) into my parents' grocery cart when we do our Christmas stocking-up, but I didn't find any this year.
Pfefernusse are round, domed cookies coated in white icing. The icing is crisp when you bite into it, giving way to soft cookie underneath. I missed them when our grocery stores failed me.
Fortunately, I still have these Old Fashioned Ginger Cookies.
My mom's go-to recipe collection for cookies has been The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden. The page with the ginger cookies is the most batter-spattered page in the whole book. She used to make it exactly as written, but she made some adjustments this time. With two brothers needed extra dietary restrictions and her desire for general well-being for the whole house, sugar was cut (for the most part) and replaced with coconut sugar.
I usually shy away from coconut sugar. It looks funny. It's different from what I'm used to. And it's healthy sugar, which is bizarre. Those hang-ups aside, I liked working with it here. It has a warmer, earthier, spicier scent that is ever so subtle when added to baked goods. It's sweet, but not saccharine- like other sugars and non-sugar sweeteners.
It really is a wonderful substitute for the ol' granulated white stuff and, in our house, necessary. Cancer cells feed on sugar, and thrive on the processed white sugar from sugar cane. The white stuff also reeks absolute havoc on a body's glycemic index. One brother has leukemia, and the other has blood sugar issues. Exit white sugar, enter coconut sugar.
Another change made was the addition of chopped candied ginger. The flavor was so bright and warm. I can't think well of making these cookies the old way- now it's strictly coconut sugar and ginger-bits forever.
We didn't ice these like my dear pfefernusse, but otherwise they were spot-on twins. If you take the time to ice your Old-fashioned Gingers, comment and tell me how it went.

Old Fashioned Gingers
Adapted from The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup coconut sugar
1 egg
4 Tbsp black molasses
1/2 tsp concentrated lemon juice or 1 tsp fresh
1/3 cup candied ginger
1/4 cup granulated sugar (for garnish. If you're icing your cookies, you might want to skip this ingredient.)

Preheat oven to 325 and chop ginger into tiny bits.

Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and coconut sugar together with an electric beater or mixer, then add egg and mix well.

Stir in molasses and lemon juice. Add dry ingredients, a third or so at a time, mixing well. Then stir in the ginger bits.

Shape the dough into tiny balls, about a 1/4 inch wide. Roll the balls in granulated sugar (if you'll be icing your cookies, skip the sugar roll).

Place them about two inches apart on a baking stone or greased cookie tray, lightly smoosh with a flat-bottomed glass, and bake for 10-13 minutes for soft cookies, or 14-17 minutes for harder, snap-like cookies.

Remove from trays and let cool completely before storing. Or eat right off the counter while still warm. Both are great ideas.

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