Maybe we should hold a contest to name these cookies, for there’s no deciding. Gingerbread Cookies with Chocolate? Chocolate Spice Cookies? Chocolate Chip Ginger Cookies? I finally decided on Chocolate Ginger Crinkle Cookies but what I really know these chocolate-y ginger-y cookies deserve is, “C’mon over. Let’s dunk a cookie into a cup of coffee.” A little long, yes, but aren’t you just dying for a coffee now? These cookies, they'll do that to ya.
Twas another time, the Great Depression of the 1930s. A young family prepared to celebrate Christmas on a hard-scrabble place above the Meramec River here in east-central Missouri. There were only five in the family now, a mother recently widowed and four children. Money was scarce.
Determined to make the holiday festive, the mother went into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree, a possum haw already decorated with fat cherry-red berries. Late on Christmas Eve, the family crossed the creek to attend midnight mass. “Take the little ones,” the mother instructed the older two. “I forgot something at the house, I’ll catch up.”
After mass, ‘Santa’ had come and gone, leaving an orange for each one, homemade flour-sack shirts for the boys and small gifts for the girls. The kids had pooled their pennies to buy their mother a big peppermint stick. They exchanged gifts with one another too, the subject of much whispering and plotting beforehand, usually handmade, some times purchased with a few coins.
Looking back, the now-grown children, the oldest and the youngest with children and grandchildren of their own, remember feeling wonder and abundance. By all rights, that Christmas should have been hard but thanks to their mother, it wasn’t.
Twas another time then, for sure. Last month, a news reader cited evidence of our current financial troubles. “Revenue is down 10 percent at Saks Fifth Avenue,” he read rather breathlessly. Ten percent, I thought, only ten percent? At the ilk of Saks, there is nothing, NO THING, we need, plenty to want, of course, but nothing to need.
So what is the 2009 equivalent of possum haw Christmas trees, one orange per person, peppermint sticks and flour-sack shirts? How do we feel rich, even without riches? When surrounded by riches, how do we appreciate the beauty of a single orange? Tis mine to ponder, this holiday season.
RECIPE for CHOCOLATE GINGER CRINKLE COOKIES
Chill: at least 2 hours
Time to table: 3 hours
Make 4 dozen cookies
- 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 285 grams
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, fluffed to aerate or 25 grams
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1-1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
- Powdered sugar for rolling
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, vanilla and molasses and combine well. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients with a fork. Mix into the butter mixture until well combined. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips. Gather the dough together into a ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F. Pinch off a piece of dough about a tablespoon big, roll into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving three inches between. Bake for 12 minutes (for softer cookies) to 14 minutes (for crisper cookies) until centers are set. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes before removing from the baking sheet to finish cooling. Good Day One but beginning Day Two, the chocolate and spices really emerge, especially dunked in hot coffee and cold milk.
These are bittersweet, not the possum haw turned into a Depression-era Christmas tree, but wouldn't it be beautiful?
My friend Susan from the lovely blog 'Food Blogga' is collecting Christmas cookie recipes for the third year in a row. To send her a recipe, check out these instructions. To see what recipes bakers and food bloggers from across the world are sending in, check out Eat Christmas Cookies. (But first? Stock up on butter and sugar and flour! That list is sure to provoke a baking attack.)
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