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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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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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