Still Life, With Cats

This content shows Simple View

Baking

Dozens of little men

I got this recipe from my mother, who likely got it from her mother. The directions are pretty sparse, and consist simply of a list of ingredients, the baking temperature and time, and a rough approximation of total number of cookies made per recipe.

When I was younger I used to continue my family tradition of making all sorts of different types of cookies. But these days, now that we’re older and (until recently) both worked in tiny offices so there weren’t as many people to foist cookies onto, I usually only make a few treats. This is the one cookie that gets made in our house nearly every year (sometimes the only one).

Gingerbread Men

1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup molasses
1 cup sour cream or buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
5 teaspoons ginger
Pinch of salt
Flour (to make dough stiff enough to roll – about 4 – 6 cups)

Bake at 350 degrees (F) for about 10 minutes. Makes about 50 men.

– – –

Here is the thing about these cookies. The amount of flour listed is NEVER enough. And it always makes a whole lot more than you are counting on. Also, you need to remember to have raisins and red hots on hand, because that is what you use for the eyes and the nose. You have to have made rolled, cut cookies before so you have some idea of the relative thickness of dough you’re aiming for (I have no idea; I just roll it out until it feels about right, which I realize isn’t the remotest bit helpful to someone who might never have done this but…that’s the best I can tell you).

The best thing about these cookies is that they are actually better the next day, once they’ve cooled and the ginger has had a chance to really come to the foreground.

Some people, I suspect, would decorate them once they’re out of the oven – give them little icing smiles and put candies on them for buttons and other adornments. But I never bother with that. I like my cookies plain (have never been that much of a fan of icing anyway – it’s far too sweet for me).

I baked an entire batch tonight. Most of them have been put into tiny bags, for a cookie exchange later this week. But as I mentioned above, this recipe always makes more than you think. So there are a few – just enough – left to nibble here and there. And the house smells deliciously like sugar and ginger and butter and Christmas.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.



From the oven

Let’s say you are in the mood to bake something. Maybe cookies. Shortbread is really quick and easy and only takes a few ingredients – all of which you always have on hand (you *do* always have these on hand, right?). Except you’re also in the mood for peanut butter.

This is what you should make.

Peanut Butter Shortbread

1 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons)
1/4 cup peanut butter (whatever kind you like best)

Stir together flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, or your hands, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Knead dough with hands until it comes together.

Press dough into an 8×8 inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until lightly brown at the edges.

Let the shortbread cool completely before cutting into 20 – 32 pieces. Yes, really. I’m serious on this one. While you might be able to get away with eating regular shortbread straight from the pan, if you try a piece of this one while it’s still warm, you will have hot peanut butter goodness immediately coat your entire mouth and will be unable to do anything but make vague squeaking noises until you gulp down something to drink. As a side note to Richard’s writerly friends upon who I foisted this experiment, please accept my apologies for not realizing this would be an issue before I gave you still-warm-from-the oven cookies.

Should you decide to sprinkle about half a cup of semisweet chocolate chips on top of the cookies as soon as they are removed from the oven, and then once melted, spread that chocolate all over the cookies before you cut them, more power to you. Is it possible that one of us is considering adding a thin layer of additional peanut butter in between the cookie and the chocolate, just to ramp things up a bit? Maybe. But how about we keep that our little secret for now.




top