Monthly Archives: October 2009

Soft Glazed Gingerbread

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When the woes of the world come knocking on my door (a car that won’t start, tired baking shoulders, planning holiday madness, flat bike tires), I don’t take that business lying down! No way! I get out there and  I….well, I bake some gingerbread.  I was in the process of beginning my weekend (mid-week, that is) when I hit a few hiccups, one being that my car is becoming a bit prissy about deciding when it wants to be driven. To coffee with a friend? Yes, sure. Home from said coffee date? Apparently not. I cancelled my plans to drive to the city for a day of treats and photos. I needed to conjure my own inspiration. I rode around on my bike all day, smelling everyone’s fireplaces and feeling the faded sunshine on my face. The changing light…I was reminded of New Year’s Day, the most recent one, the morning after a little rambunctious revelry. We all woke up, ate some amazing breakfast courtesy of our hosts, rolled up our sleeping bags and bad outfits and headed over to the sunny side of the city. The Soft Glazed Gingerbread from Tartine in San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cookies to behold and has the good fortune of being equally delicious. Brains and beauty, I was hooked. I ate the whole, gorgeous little slab. And then I ate a croissant too. Hey! It was New  Year’s Day!

Soft Glazed Gingerbread 

(from Tartine, Chronicle Books, 2006)

Ingredients
Dough: 
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder 
4 teaspoons ground ginger 
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground 
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz./226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 
1 large egg 
1/2 cup blackstrap or other dark molasses 
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

 Glaze: 
1 cup confectioners’ sugar 
2 tablespoon water

Instructions:
To Make the Dough: 
Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and mix on medium speed until the mixture is completely smooth and soft. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and mix well. Add the molasses and corn syrup and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer again and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and all the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it on a large piece of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 1 inch thick, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  (I put mine in the freezer for about three hours, and that seemed like enough.)Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick liner. 

 

Unwrap the dough and place on a floured work surface. 

IMG_0963Although the Tartine cookies are made using a springerle patterned rolling pin, I do not have such a beautiful artifact. I am asking for one for Christmas. So, for this cookie today, I used every other interesting texture-maker in my kitchen. You do not need to make any texture, but the idea is that the glaze settles into the low spots on the cookie’s surface and makes a pretty relief image. My next post will be all about these molds and pins, as I have found myself quite obsessed. I rolled mine out about 1/4 inch thick, but next time I would do it thicker, perhaps 3/4 inch.

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I used a tart pan to make a fluted slab after rolling, and then dragged a pastry comb through to make lines.

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After slicing the slab with a very sharp knife, I placed them about an inch apart on the parchment-lines sheet pans.

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I baked this one whole, and sliced it after baking

Bake the cookies until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers, 7 to 15 minutes. The timing will depend on the size of the individual cookies, or if you have made a single large patterned piece that will be cut after baking. 

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. 

To Make the Glaze: 
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and water until smooth. 

When the cookies are ready, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then, while the cookies are still warm, using even strokes, brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie, evenly covering it. Let the cookies cool completely. When the glaze dries, it should leave a shiny, opaque finish. If you have used a patterned pin to make a single large plaque, cut into the desired sizes with a small, very sharp knife. 

The cookies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for about 2 weeks. They do not freeze well, however, as the glaze becomes watery when they are thawed. 

Makes 12 to 20 cookies, depending on size of cutters. 

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the ginger-brick road

 Next post: Springerle, and why you should care. 

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Pomegranates

The property that I grew up on was just that, a piece of land. Not a street, not a neighborhood. We didn’t have a mailbox that we could check at the end of the drive and no early morning newspaper ever flew onto our porch. The few times we heard a human voice in the distance, us kids would make it a mission to track, stalk, and spy on that human. Once my friend Amanda and I heard a woman singing out in the canyon that began in our “back-yard”. That one voice provided us with a few hours of walking in the brush, listening, and crouching in the woods, until we found a house, an actual “neighbor”  deep in the ravine, on a hillside. A young woman sat on the deck, singing to herself. We felt replete with accomplishment. My mom probably felt the same as she dabbed calamine on every single boil on our arms and legs later that day.

Trails laced the land my parents owned, but property lines and fences meant next to nothing to the children who roamed it. We knew those dusty walks in child-map ways; when to hop that root there, where the dead owl was found last year, and the spot that was too narrow for the wagon we dragged behind us. 

On the next property over there was another family. They too had no paved drive, no mailbox, just muddy ruts in the dirt roads made by their cream-colored truck in the wet season. We found the tree one day while searching for pestle holes in the giant granite boulders that dotted their countryside. The Maidu tribe originally inhabited that land, and the bits and pieces of their lives that we found were always the beginning of a story. My dad would tell us about the holes in the rocks, smooth, worn, cup-like divots atop boulders bigger than houses. “They would toss some acorns in there,” he’d say with a quiet, conspiratorial voice, “and with their other stone, they’d grind it and grind it until they had a mush to make a tortilla with!” Then he’d make us quesadillas and we’d eye each other across the table and make a few savage grunts. There’s no room to be politically correct when you’re seven years old.

The neighbor boy and I found the pomegranate tree while exploring the back land one fall, searching for artifacts. Around a huge boulder we walked, running our smooth baby fingers on the sandpaper speckled surface. We stopped. We oohed and ahhed. A tree stood before us, loaded with giant rubies. Before I knew it, he was half-way up the tree, already reaching for the fruit. I began to climb as well, and soon we were both perched on the strong, fat branches. How we knew what it was, I’m not sure. Maybe we’d seen it during holiday meals or in a market, but we knew we were going to eat it. We each took a pomegranate and starting at the flower-like top, peeled and picked our way to the seeds and sitting above all that land, that wild, crisp air….we made the most serious mess either of us had ever seen. The crimson juice ran down our faces, our shirts, dripped off our elbows onto knees and sneakers. Our small hands looked terrific to us.Covered in juices, we felt like true savages just then. I remember his wide smile, shrill laugh, mouth open, teeth stained pink. 

After the long trek back to the road, we parted ways at the barbed wire fence that had been bent back to allow hundreds of trips between the two homesteads. I can still feel the exact angle one would have had to position themselves to squeeze through the opening to avoid the pointy barbs. I ran home after the fence, and when inside, left my shoes in the entry way, my dirty pink velcro sneakers splaying their grime over the jade-colored slate. I then slid down the carpeted stairs on my bottom, a ritual not to be denied for the sake of dirty play clothes. When I skidded into the kitchen, my mom gave a gasp, and then immediately laughed as I placed the shiny, perfect pomegranate I’d carried home for her onto the kitchen counter. She handed me a damp washcloth for my face and smiled with her mouth, her eyes, her whole body.

 

for my brother, Jordan….Happy 30th Birthday. I love you so.

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On returning to the table…

We were hungry. Really, profoundly hungry. It had been days since a meal larger than a bowl of broth or a salad had passed our lips. Somehow Ryan and I had made it through a day of working the Sunday Farmer’s Market. I had my first coffee (oh, sweet caffeinated bliss) in a week and was feeling almost ready to dive into the market, fork first. Having no appetite during the past week of sickness was difficult. I live a enviously well-fed life. I seem to be able to whip up an appetite quicker than a menu can even be fathomed. But, this last week or so, I had nothin’.  I wanted nothin’. I had no desire to eat, cook, look at food, or really even smell it (problematic at work). Ryan and I were a bit dumbfounded. It is an understatement to say we have a common love for this subject. It defines our days, it is what we do together, it is the spark that brought us together. When we met, this is how it went:

 

Setting: Farmer’s market, my stand, a crisp December day

Me: So, what are you doing for Christmas?

Him: Well, my family’s coming out from Massachusetts and I’m gonna cook for them. It should be interesting. They really love food.

Me: Oh yeah? That’s awesome. What are you gonna make?

(I interject here to say that I expected something very normal, maybe kinda bachelor-centric….pizza even. I wouldn’t have discriminated. He’s dreamy either way.)

Him: Oh, well. Let’s see. Crab, scallops, some Alaskan Cod, probably braise some vegetables. Maybe some clams, shrimp scampi. My dad’s a great cook.

Me: (silence, mouth agape)

Him: Uh, yeah, so…….

Me: (picturing our life in the kitchen together…silence, mouth agape)

Him: Yeah…um… cool! Do you want to trade some bread for some meat or anything? No? I should probably get back….

 

Anyway, we obviously figured out how to speak to each other and then we learned to cook and eat together. I can’t explain how this has taken me in and warmed my little soul. So, enough with the lovey talk. Sorry. It’s fall. It happens.

Last night we went to a fund-raising dinner held at Il Cane Rosso in San Francisco. It was to benefit Soul Food Farm in Vacaville, where a fire recently ripped through their poultry farm and destroyed many buildings and much land. Il Cane Rosso has a very farmer-driven menu, and is sourcing some beautiful ingredients from many small producers. The dinner last night was very successful and the reason I say that with such ridiculous, uninformed confidence is because it was insanely delicious. As I said before, we were drawing our last breaths and feeling like perhaps this was it, hunger had won…..And then, placed in front of us, on a cool, brisk, San Francisco evening, was an array of plates to warm even the Grinchiest of tummies. 

A colorful, festive tomato salad, with a “bloody mary” twist: a celery and horseradish vinaigrette. It was spicy, pungent and a great wake-up call to my taste buds. A roasted top sirloin, delicate slices folding onto one another. Ryan was excited about this, partially because it was his beef and partially ’cause of the hunger. Tomato-braised green beans, which were so thin and dainty in their pool of shocking red sauce. A pretty little dish of potato gratin, which you know is what every human wants for their last meal on earth. Buttery, salty layers of soft potato, crisp on the edges and still bubbling from the heat of the oven. I immediately thought of my mom’s scalloped potatoes she makes during the holidays. Dessert of a sweet, crumbly apple cake with a spoonful of fresh cream was almost too much to handle. We both felt the dishes were so festive in a warm-house-full-of-kind-faces way, we felt welcomed back to the land of the living. And eating, more importantly.

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First the swine flu, and then this!?

After a few days of what I consider my twice-yearly bout with sickness, I (literally) dragged myself to the computer on Monday morning in a stupor and couldn’t believe what I saw….Gourmet, the monthly food magazine, is closing it doors after 68 years being published, cooked from, devoured and revered by home cooks and food lovers alike. Gorgeous photography, ambitious recipes and great profiles on restaurants and chefs that were on the horizon…I’m glad the bay area got some of the focus on the next to last issue. I made the Pecan Brown Butter cookies just yesterday…..sniff*..I think it will be really fun to see what the other food publications do with the room made by Gourmet’s absence. They have a great opportunity to bring new readership and maybe even snag a few great writers or photographers from the disbanding magazine. Alas, Ruth Reichl will certainly continue to be the altar at which many foodies pray, so I am excited to see what her next moves are. Back to Berkeley, Ruth? Just kidding. 

http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/ruth-reichl-to-promote-gourmet-cookbook-before-writing-a-book-of-her-own/

 

I hopefully will be over my flu-ish thing in a day or two and hope to jump back on and blow you all away with a delectable story. Take care. Wash your hands. 🙂

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