Monday, January 5, 2009

Out from under the Pots and Pans

Whew. It's been a heck of a month. December now behind me, weeks of moving and packing and unpacking, cookies baked and Christmas dinner made, travels back to Indiana for New Year's celebration... I can scarcely catch my breath. Wait, I'm catching it now, bear with me while I remember my breath as I write these words.

It's been a busy month, filled with new beginnings and some tough emotional stuff. This past month I've learned what love means, and commitment too (well, I knew about it before but now I really get it). Commitment to the one you love in times of haul-the-50lb-desk-into-the-truck-in-blinding-snow stress. Commitment to creativity and beauty when you're so exhausted you can barely stir the cookie batter for the cookies you promised for Christmas. It's tough out there, kids. Change is tough, transition is tough, but real love is tougher.

So I return to you, my friends, after a month of stress and moving and transition into a new life in our house on 35th Avenue. And you know what? I survived the weeks without internet. I survived my own terrible and uncontrollable desire for order amidst chaos (thanks, Mark, for enduring my neurotic perfectionism.) I even survived well enough to make Christmas dinner and two batches of cookies Christmas day, 4 days after moving. Yes, I know I'm a bit masochistic.

But you must be able to imagine how sweet and beautiful it was to make food in a new space, with (most) everything put in its place. I reached for my spices and GASP! they were there, and on their own shelf! Imagine my satisfaction, as this past year I've lived with my little jars of cardamom and cloves, coriander and chipotle in a small cardboard box tucked into the dark maw of our back walk-in closet. I was tired Christmas day, but I cooked. I cooked and baked and Mark chopped and sipped - we both sipped, of course.

For me, it was a mad expression of love and commitment. For food, for happiness, for survival of all the things that really matter to us. Beauty, comfort, creativity and family. Christmas day, though we were both away from our families, baking cookies felt like family to me. I even brought a few of these cookies home to my family in Indiana for a post-Christmas visit... soft ginger cookies. I've been tinkering with this recipe for a few years, but now I think I've found my formula. With or without chocolate chips, they're heavenly. They signify the cool months, and I look forward to them as soon as the leaves drop from the trees.

So starting this year, starting with the knowledge that things will come together (eventually), I will believe. I'll believe that all things resolve, all emotions pass, and all cookies, with some tinkering, will come out just right.

Soft Ginger Chocolate Cookies

Makes 4 – 5 dozen cookies, depending on size

Adapted from a Ginger Snaps recipe from The Joy of Cooking copyright 1997

This recipe can be tweaked for whether you want the cookie a bit drier and cakey (reduce the butter by half) or a bit harder (replace the honey with all sugar) or without the chocolate chips for a purist experience. This recipe is my personal favorite of all the variations I’ve tried.

3 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour (or flour of choice)

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup honey

2/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

½ cup dark molasses

¼ cup finely minced fresh ginger

1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease cookie sheets. Whisk or sift together thoroughly the first seven ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat together the next six ingredients until well-blended. Stir the wet and dry mixtures together until smooth. Add the chocolate chips and stir if using.

Scoop cookie dough into 3 heaping tablespoon size cookies to bake. Bake 10 – 13 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through, until cookie looks uniform and set.

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