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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ginger Cookies

I discovered Clementine Paddleford in an article about the culinary pioneer back in 2002 when Saveur featured her recipe for Sweet Potato Tipsy, now a holiday go-to for me and mine. Hers is a strange case. Unlike Amelia Earhart, she didn't vanish entirely; she merely disappeared into near obscurity. Similar to Earhart, Paddleford too piloted her own plane. But among other means of transportation as well, her purpose was to cover thousands and thousands of miles of American territory over the course of 12 years to explore the courses of its regional home cooks. The results may be found in 1960's considerable, culinary tome, How America Eats. Ms. Paddleford also has the enviable credit on her C.V. of being the New York Herald Tribune's food editor for 30 years. I am delighted to report that I recently won a bid for a first edition, autographed copy of How America Eats in mint condition on eBay.

While the collection features a host of gripping, curious recipes that may threaten to pull at the palate of today (cabbage and scrapple, pretzel clam soup, cheese muff, fish balls) there are also gems such Dr. Coffin's Lobster Stew, Mrs. Dull's Perfection Sponge Cake and homespun comforts such as baked beans, butterhorn rolls, Southern fried chicken (with charmingly archaic 'broilers'), and ginger cookies. I went for the latter first, adapted here, in my own personal exploration cutting the recipe in half (full recipe below). I didn't want to roll out 8 dozen cookies! The note included says that the  cookies are 'very hard' and I found that to certainly true, too hard in fact. Unsatisfactory! I let them sit out for a few days to get stale, I suppose you'd say, to make them more malleable, so they may actually be enjoyed without a notion of cracking the teeth. Delicious with a slather of softened cream cheese and a sprinkled  flurry of confectioners sugar for the kids--or a casual Champagne and tea party for adults!

Cream the butter with the spices to get started...

18th Century Ginger Cookies
1 cup butter/margarine
4 TB ginger
1TB nutmeg
1 TB cinnamon
Dash of salt
1 cup sugar
2 cups dark molasses
1/2 pint light cream/evaporated milk
8-9 cups sifted flour
Blend butter, spices and salt. Add sugar and cream thoroughly, Warm together molasses and cream; add gradually to butter mixture, mixing well. Stir in flour until a moderately stiff dough is formed. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375-degrees F. for 10-12 minutes.

About 8 dozen 3-inch cookies.

Note: This recipe makes a very hard cookie.

Add the warmed molasses and cream together with the creamed mixture...

Finally, mix in the sifted flour!

I made a fine mess rolling out the dough on a floured counter but at least I was armed with Baby's great grandmother's rolling pin! It was the only thing she took, fleeing Belaruse at the turn of the last century, possessing the forethought to carry a kitchen tool and possibly a weapon as well; both for the sake of her family.

Couldn't you just abandon civility, embrace depravity here and lick this deep chestnut-colored confection right off of the counter?

Now, the little buggers stuck, so I would recommend working quickly (ie don't pause for a photo shoot) flouring liberally both counter and rolling pin, and chilling the mixture first. Continue to do so while each batch bakes until lightly browned--I don't have the capacity nor the inclination to bake eight dozen cookies, so as I mentioned, I made four dozen, a dozen at a time in the oven.

Another suggestion: line a trifle dish with these cookies to enhance your banana pudding. Now, onto the pretzel clam soup!

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