Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Ginger Snaps

Ok, I'm a total dork, but I starting writing this post about 3 weeks in advance of it's due date. Generally speaking I'm a procrastinator. But I wanted this post to be just right, so I figured with a head start it would eventually end up where I wanted it to be without scrambling around on Sunday like I do many weeks. Well I'm scrambling a bit! I guess I am procrastinator through and through. This is an exciting post for me...combining my first week hosting a Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to also share how my blog came to be called the Ginger Snap Girl.

I find that Ginger Snaps are the kind of cookie that you love or you hate. I fall on the love, love, love side of the coin! It is one of my favorite cookies of all time (with classic chocolate chip and linzers in the running). The Ginger Snap recipe that I have been making for the last 10 years or so comes from a family friend (where she got it from is unknown). Actually she was my Great Grandmother's best friend for as long as I can remember. Though Great Grandma and her friend passed away in the last decade, the recipe was passed on to my Grandma J who passed it along to me. This is one of those recipes that people ask for after they taste these delicious cookies. And I happily pass it on so others can share in the goodness.

When I first started my blog I struggled to come up with a name. Of all the cooking and baking I do, cookies are hands down, my favorite thing to make. They are personal size portions of sweet goodness and love that you can easily share. Cookies bring a smile to people's faces. So I started thinking about my favorite cookies and how I could incorporate that into a name. Ginger Snaps were the perfect fit. They are classic, yet unique with their spicy flavor. Of all the cookies I bake and share with others, Ginger Snaps are one of the top 2 requests (the other being linzers at the holidays). So, why not The Ginger Snap Girl? (The Linzer Girl just didn't do it for me!).

I was actually torn about which recipe to choose to host SMS this week. Truth be told, I really didn't want to try another Ginger Snap recipe because I adore my family recipe so much. But choosing this recipe really seemed like the right thing to pay homage to a beloved recipe and the namesake of my blog all at the same time. In reality, Melissa Murphy's recipe isn't all that far off from the recipe I've been counting on for years. The biggest differences are Melissa Murphy's addition of white pepper and my recipe calls for the cookies to be rolled in sugar before baking and Melissa's does not.

I sometimes give my Ginger Snaps a special twist with a lemon cream filling. I adapted a raspberry cream filling from Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook by subbing lemon juice for raspberry puree. This creamy filling is delicious and pairs perfectly with the chewy Ginger Snap. See recipe below. My lemon cream came out a little looser than I like this week, but that's because I halved the recipe and didn't do the math right! One tip I will offer about the lemon cream is that when you first add the heavy cream to the melted chocolate it looks like it's going to seize up the whole mixture. But be patient and keep working in the cream a tiny bit by tiny bit. It eventually loosens back up and becomes workable. It's also key to refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes up to a few hours.

Onto to the star of the show....the Ginger Snaps! I followed Melissa Murphy's recipe just as it was written, mostly. I couldn't resist rolling the balls of dough in sugar before baking. But I did everything else exactly. :) Even added the white pepper.

So how do they stack up? They are delicious! They came out thin and chewy with a lovely blend of spiciness. I keep tasting them to see if I can pick out the white pepper, but I really can' blends right in. The real test was my hubby...he usually tries my weekly creations out of obligation but he's not a big sweets person. Can i just say he went back for thirds on these cookies when I baked them last night? I made the full batch and came out with 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Check out other Sweet Melissa Sunday's Baker's Ginger Snaps here.

Lemon Cream Recipe
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Recipe for Raspberry Cream Sandwiches

7 1/2 oz best quality white chocolate coarsely chopped
2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Juice and zest of 1 medium lemon

Melt white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat; whisk in cream in a slow, steady stream. Combine juice of the lemon and zest with sugar. Add lemon mixture to the chocolate and slowly whisk until pale, about 3 minutes. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Gingersnaps Recipe
From Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/3 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugars and butter until light and fluffy, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Beat in the egg. Stir in the molasses.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and white pepper.

3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

4. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

5. Using a small cookie scoop, form balls approximately 1 inch in diameter, and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for a about 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Do not unwrap before defrosting.

You will need three cookie sheets to bake all of the dough.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Chestnut (Almond) Honey Madelienes

Hubby and I went to Costco today and there were food samples galore. We had just eaten lunch, so I was only interested in the sweet samples. I had a little strawberry shortcake, a brownie bite and a madeleine. It was a sign I should make this week's recipe selected by Debbie of Cafe Chibita. I was torn on making this week's pick. I don't have a madeleine pan, but I was interested in making this cake like cookie. Bed, Bath and Beyond carries madeleine pans online, but apparently not at their store. They informed me that madeleine pans would fall into the "Beyond" part. When you wait until Sunday to make this revelation, you have to consider plan B. BBB did have an adorable mini bundt pan for a good price and I figured I would be more likely to use this down the road then the madeleine pan. Plan B it is!

The Costco madeleine was sweet and dense with a coarse cakey texture. My mini bundt madeleines were...nothing like the Costco madeleine. Aside from the fact mine were "well done", they reminded me a little of a donut. The outside was chewy and the inside tender.

I halved the recipe and subbed almonds that I had on hand for the hazelnuts. I also sifted my dry mixture to avoid the coarse texture I found in the Costco madeleine. Had mine not burned, they would have been a nice a little treat. I decided a nice shower of powdered sugar was needed to dress up my overly browned bundts. Luckily they are still edible. However they will not be making an appearance at the office tomorrow as originally planned. Hubby seems to like them despite their appearance so they won't go to waste. I would give these another shot and keep a more watchful eye on them. Or just set the timer appropriately next time. Details, details!

On a happy note, I'm very pleased with my mini bundt pan purchase. I see many possibilities for mini treats in my future.

Madeleines of all shapes and sizes can be found here on other Sweet Melissa Sundays bakers blogs.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Chocolate Orange Macaroons

I often think about my Grandparent's small eat in kitchen. During our regular visits to their house throughout my childhood, we always spent the most time in that small kitchen. Eating or playing scrabble or cards. The kitchen was separate from the rest of the house, so there were no distractions from the television or other activities going on. Though the kitchen was small, it was cozy and warm. It welcomed you in to sit down and enjoy the food, games and conversation. A round wooden table took up most of the room and as I think back, Grandma had very little counter space to work with. But somehow she was able to turn out wonderful and comforting food for my Grandfather (and us as occasional visitors), three meals a day, nearly every day of the year. And she made it all seem effortless. Now that I'm grown up and have some perspective on the work that goes into making even a basic meal, I am in awe of how simple she made it all look. She didn't have a dishwasher either. We would wash the dishes by hand after each meal, with one person washing, one rinsing and one drying. Grandma always washed the dishes and she used the hottest, most scalding water you can imagine. When I was little I would use a step stool and rinse or dry, wondering how she could stand the water so hot. Anyway, I could go on for days about my I will get to the one that ties back to this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays post.

Well before I get to that, here is a photo of my brother and I with Grandma in her kitchen.

One of the most prominent memories of my Grandma were birthdays, and more importantly birthday cake. Grandma most always made chocolate cake with orange frosting for the family birthdays. I know she used a boxed cake mix, but I'm not sure how she made the frosting. I like to think it was homemade. But I do know that she used fresh orange zest to flavor a butter cream type frosting. Those flavors, chocolate and orange, are like magic to me. There is something so simple, yet unique about the combination. The chocolate cake was always incredibly moist and the frosting subtly citrus orange. Just thinking about it makes me smile. It's kind of amazing how a memory can enhance your food experience. Grandma passed away more than a decade ago, but every year I try to squeeze in a little chocolate cake with orange frosting. Usually I just make my own birthday cake so I can take a comforting trip down memory lane. To this day I jump at the opportunity to combine these two magical flavors together. So it is with great excitement that I tackle this week's SMS recipe for Chocolate Orange Macaroons.

Macaroons are a perplexing cookie. There are several types. The fancy french sandwich type with a cream filling (will get around to trying these out at some point in the future). The coconut variety and the original macaroon (according to Wikipedia) made from ground up almonds. I opted to go the ground up almond route given my aversion to the texture of coconut. I compared a recipe I had with ground almonds to Melissa Murphy's coconut based recipe and they were very similar. I halved the recipe (using 1 cup of blanched slivered almonds), 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 and 1/2 egg whites, the zest of one orange and 3 oz of finely chopped chocolate. I also added about 1/4 tsp of orange extract to give it a little extra orange punch.

My cookies flattened out a bit more than I hoped. I think I should have stuck with 1 egg white. The cookies looked a little bare when they came out of the oven so I dressed them up by dipping the bottoms in melted dark chocolate and drizzling some chocolate across the top. The absence of flour in this cookie recipe makes for a chewy texture. Almost like a soft rice krispie treat. The rich chocolate coating was a nice addition to these cookies and definitely took them to the next level. A perfect balance of chocolate and orange. They turned out delicious!

I package up these little goodies gave them to my Grandpa who turned 93 years old earlier this week. A little salute to Grandma and her famous cake. Doesn't he look fabulous by the way?

You can find the original recipe on Ellen's blog, Blue Tree Green Heart. Thanks for choosing this tasty recipe Ellen! You can see what other Sweet Melissa Sunday Bakers did by clicking here. On the roster for next week are Chestnut Honey Madeleines.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints

I'm very excited about June cookie month for Sweet Melissa Sundays. This is the first of 4 weeks of cookie recipes coming up. Linzers are a favorite of mine. I make linzers every Christmas and package them up with a few other varieties of cookies and give them as gifts. They are delicate sandwich cookies and have that wow factor that makes them special. I fill them with raspberry and lemon curd and the lemon curd is the by and large the favorite (somewhat reminiscent of a lemon bar). I thought Melissa Murphy's Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints would go well with lemon curd filling. Thumbs up on these tasty cookies!

The pistachios give these cookies a crumbly texture, but the flavor of the nuts was very subtle. Upon reading other SMS baker's experience with crumbly dough, I used 3/4 cup of pistachios rather than 1 cup. The dough came together in the food processor and looked like rough cornmeal. I was concerned that the dough would not come together. But when I pinched it together it held. I think because the recipe calls for cold butter it gets that dry looking texture. I formed my dough into a large disc and let it sit out at room temperature for about 15 minutes to ensure the butter the was warm enough to keep the dough nice and doughy! I then refrigerated it for about an hour before rolling it out into balls.

The little balls of dough got a coating of egg wash and a tumble in the finely chopped pistachios. I did add about 1/4 cup of sugar to the pistachios when I pulsed them in the food processor to keep the oil in the nuts from making the coating too moist--a trick from my linzer recipe.

When I pressed in the thumbprints there was a slight cracking at the edges but it was easily solved by just patting them together. The warmth from your fingers makes the butter soften right up and hold a nice shape.

I filled a ziploc bag with store bought lemon curd (I like Dickinson's brand) and piped the filling in the centers.

20 minutes in the oven and they came out golden brown.

A heavy shower of powdered sugar went on after the cookies cooled. The coolest tip from this recipe was tapping the center of the cookie with a wet finger to get the lemon curd to shine through the powdered sugar. It's these little genius things that make all the difference in the world.

So how did they taste? I really enjoyed them. It was nice to try baking with a different kind of nut. They have a crumbly texture, but not too crumbly. The sweetness from the powdered sugar is perfect with the sweet curd filling. Hubby said they were good, but not great. But, he did come back for seconds. Which speaks volumes for him! He's not a big sweets guy. I would definitely make these again. Even though this recipe has a few steps, I thought it was easier than my regular linzer recipe. Melissa Murphy also recommends trying this recipe with hazelnuts. Hazelnuts would be tasty with Nutella filling! Mmmmmm. So many options!

Thank you Tracey for hosting this week's recipe. Check out what other SMS bakers did here. Up next week, Chocolate Orange Macaroons. :)