Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chewy Ginger Cookies

Baking is always a challenge, especially in Bangkok. Finding the ingredients here is like embarking on a treasure hunt! A simple Christmas staple like Ginger Cookies takes some ingenuity and resourcefulness. I like to try out a new recipe as it is written, but I was forced to make two substitutions at the outset. Molasses, for one,  is difficult to find and it's expensive. Preserved ginger, for another, should have been available since it is an ingredient in Asian cooking, but as it is with most foods here, it's a mystery. So, instead of molasses I used maple syrup, which I happened to have in my pantry,  and I used fresh grated ginger instead of ginger preserves. And once in a while, an ingredient will have a different name. I recognized demerara sugar in the packet though it goes by the name namtaan thammachart or natural sugar here.  I made these cookies in the afternoon and brought them over to Lek's house, where we ate them for dessert. We all agreed: this recipe from is a keeper!

Clockwise from left: ginger root, vanilla, maple syrup, and a Japanese ginger grater
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
5 cracks black pepper (I took this to mean 5 twists of the pepper grinder)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar (use brown sugar if you are not using molasses)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses or maple syrup or honey
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar (original recipe: 2 tablespoons ginger preserves, minced)
1/2 cup namtaan thammachart or demerara sugar for rolling

Namtaan Thammachart (Natural or Demerara Sugar)
Grate the ginger. I discovered this unassuming little tool, the ginger grater, in a Japanese section of a department store. I saw from the picture on the package what it was for so I bought it. It was definitely cheaper than a microplane grater but not as easy to use. I had to press hard. I grated two tablespoons of ginger, put it in a small bowl, and added two tablespoons of sugar.

Combine the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, mustard, salt, and black pepper.

Cream the butter and sugars. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, beating until just combined. Add the molasses or maple syrup or honey and the ginger-sugar mixture. Beat until the batter turns a light brown color all over.

Add the dry ingredients. All at once, add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape and turn with a rubber spatula to make sure all ingredients are moistened. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate for 25 minutes.

Cookie Balls Rolled in Demerara Sugar
Scoop and roll. Spray two baking sheets with cooking oil or cover with silicone baking mats.  Pour a 1/2 cup demerara sugar into a small bowl.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and scoop out a tablespoon of dough. Roll into a ball in your hands and dip one side in the sugar. Put sugared side up on a baking sheet. Continue scooping and rolling. Refrigerate 25 minutes. Chilling will make the cookies chewy on the inside and crackly and crisp on top. Preheat oven 375˚F.

Lightly Golden Chewy Ginger Cookies
Bake cookies. Pop the trays in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Cool the cookies in the pan for about two minutes, then remove to wire cooling racks until completely cooled. The cookies came out light brown because I did not use unsulphured molasses. It didn't affect the taste at all! In fact, they were deliciously chewy and moist, spicy, and crunchy on top.

A Plate of Ginger Cookies from My Kitchen

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