27 December 2010


I have never been a big fan of ginger. Unless it's pickled and accompanies sushi. However, I wanted to try some gingerbread for the holidays. The kids love baking with me at home, and, really, what is more fun than decorating cookies?
This recipe turned out great. It was cakey and pleasant. It was rigid enough for a house but not dry or crunchy. I have to admit I played the spices by ear, relying mostly on cloves and ginger. Below is by the recipe.
1/2 lb unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temp
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup molasses
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp baking soda

1. Combine first five ingredients. 2. Stir in dry ingredients until a smooth batter. 3. Bake at 350 about 8 minutes. The cookies will darken slightly, and the edges will be firm.

You may spoon out round cookies. They do not spread, so we rolled them into 1" balls with our hands and then smashed them flat. I like to roll them in sugar before baking. Sanding sugar is gorgeous if you have it.
You can also roll them out to make shapes. I went 1/3" thin. My daughter made hearts; my son made rectangles. Then we made people, or rather giants, that the kiddos decorated with simple icing and candies.
A nice variation would be adding candied ginger pieces or chocolate chips. Golden raisins might be nice, too.
In the end, I am so glad I tried this recipe, as it has overpowered the memory of stale gingerbread houses.

14 December 2010

Why I consider myself more of a baker than a pastry chef

I don't get garnishes. I don't get chocolate pieces, sauces, ganaches, fruit, and other edibles used for a dessert that either don't get eatten or have no other purpose than to look pretty. Sure, some stuff is neat. Wow! That's sugar?! It's amazing what you can do with some things. I understand some garnishes actually compliment the dessert or meal. I endorse this category. It's the "Oh, it needs something. Let's throw a mint leaf on it." It's just so empty.
Fondant is a similar story. No doubt it is beautiful and smooth. You can do a lot of things with it. However, no one likes it. I can't tell you how many times I've watched people peel it off to reach the yummy cake inside. I've had the freshest of fondant, too. It still tastes like sweetened wax.
Some do the same thing with bread. Toss seeds, herbs, or whatever on top when it doesn't compliment the flavor at all. And let's not even discuss the gross overuse of kale, a delicious and severely under-appreciated green, as a garnish.
Let food be food. We all know what it is. No matter what mold you threw it in. Or special cut you used. Or whatever else. Make it count!