Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Joy of Cooking: Gingersnaps

Do you read cookbooks like novels? Does your staggering stack of culinary tomes make Imelda Marcos' shoe collection look like child's play? (And, by the way, I'm guilty as charged on both counts.) If so, you're not alone and I have fabulous recommendation for you, its called: Cookbook Lovers Unite. A brand new blog dedicated to celebrating the cookbook whore in all of us.

Cookbook Lovers Unite is a group of bloggers intent on treasuring the joys of the printed cookbook. Anyone can join in the fun and the rules of the group are simple. Twice a month, a theme will be posted on Cookbook Lovers Unite and bloggers are encouraged to make something from, and post about, a recipe from a book in their collection. All recipes must be from a printed cookbook, so no online recipes, word of mouth creations, or - well - you get the drift. Once you've posted, be sure to link your creation to the theme's original post via the linky widget provided. Its just that easy and just that fun. I hope to see you there!

I very much wanted to join the first group theme - Your First Love: Our First Theme - but I've missed the deadline. While I did, in fact, make a recipe from my first cookbook love, I just didn't have time to write about it ... so I'm doing it now. Consider this my way of introducing you to the Cookbook Lovers Unite project.

Cookbook wise, my first love is decidedly classic: The Joy of Cooking (1974 edition). I fell hard and fast for it while deep in the throes of a particularly violent episode of Chicken Pox. I was in my late teens - far, far too old for such an illness - and as such I was really knocked out, just spectacularly sick. Recovery was slow, scratchy, and hopelessly boring.

While doing hard time on the couch, mostly in front of the TV watching the 1984 winter Olympics, I casually picked a well-worn copy of The Joy of Cooking off my mother's cookbook shelf. Instantly charmed by the kitschy, retro illustrations, the book captured my attention far more than I expected; I read it cover to cover. And, more than that, it captured my imagination. I began to envision elegant dinner parties with chic canapes and fizzy punch. Or luscious, long-simmered stews, served bubbling hot from the oven on crisp winter nights. I began dog-earring the pages, creating my imaginary menus and longing to feel well enough to get cooking. Eventually I recovered and, if memory serves, I made my family a meal from Joy shortly thereafter.

I still have and treasure that battered old copy of Joy. Over the years, I've returned to it again and again ... for quiches, pot pies, French bread, and my all time favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. It truly is a classic and I continue to be charmed by its retro tone and whimsical presentation. I mean, c'mon, this edition contains recipes for: moose, beaver, and bear! Its a hoot!

To honor my first love, I decided to bake Gingersnaps. And, for once, I decided to simply make the recipe as directed. This was my first time using this recipe and I wanted to give it a chance before fiddling with it. Though I did add an extra 1/2 tsp. of ginger. Shush, don't tell.

Honestly, these aren't the Gingersnaps of my dreams. They're delightfully crisp, the texture is just prefect, but they're altogether too sweet for my tastes. Next time I will cut back on the sugar and increase the ginger. I intend to play around with it and report back. Stay tuned. Though if you enjoy a sweeter cookie, this baby's for you.

Lastly, as a nod to tradition, I'm presenting the recipe as written in the book. I find the distinct lack of instruction amusing. I hope you will too. Seasoned bakers will know to follow proper creaming / wet /dry ingredient technique here. (Basically, cream your wet ingredients, whisk together and beat in the dry, form the cookies and bake. ) As written this recipe provides only two steps with very little instruction. Given such brevity, its a wonder the book is 787 pages long!

Recipe from the 1974 Edition of The Joy of Cooking
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Mix ingredients until blended. Form dough into 3/4 inch balls. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes.* As the ball melts down during baking, the cookie develops the characteristic crinkled surface.

Yield: about 10 Dozen 2 inch cookies

* Unless your cookie sheets are old and forlorn, there's really no need to grease the cookie sheets. I didn't and it worked out just fine. Do immediately transfer the baked cookies from the sheet to a wire rack to cool. That is a must!



Mo Diva said...

i have truly missed you!
What a great idea! I am tempted to join in on ths challenge.
I also am loving this recipe as on a recent road trip i have developed a great appreciation for ginger snaps (becuase i get car sick like whoa!) Might have to make my own for future trips!

MM said...

Great post! I love these types of food stories. Maybe I'm just nosey?

I also like reading through old cookbooks. It took some time to get past frustrations over the lack of standard directions. Now that I'm more experienced in the kitchen, I can find humor in the way they're written. Most of the time.

Something tells me you are going to have fun with Cookbook Lovers Unite.

Lyndsay said...

Hello there :-)

After a prolonged absense from the world of blogging I've reemerged, not as "Maven" but as myself.

I love the idea of a cook book group. Right now I'm part of a similar group that is cooking it's way through Giada recipes. Will check your links out, looks like fun.

In the meantime, Joy of Cooking is a cook's bible isn't it? I also have a Martha Stewart book that is pretty incredible in all that it teaches.


Heavenly Housewife said...

I dont "read" cookbooks, I just look at the pictures and drool like an idot LOL.
Gingersnaps look awesome daaaaaahling. I've missed you.
*kisses* HH

stephchows said...

i was just looking at my stack of cookbooks and thinking I needed to jump back into them for inspiration!

pixelgal said...

It's a safe bet that the 'Joy' book is happier on your shelf than mine. I'm so glad it led to bigger and better things for you, Diva dear...and that you're back posting again. Love the cookies.


The Diva on a Diet said...

Aw, aren't you all so sweet?! Thanks for the warm welcome back, I've missed you guys too!

Mo - def. bake up some of you own for the next car trip. Ginger is so magical ... plus, they taste great!

MM - Thanks! I really like these kinds of posts too ... so go ahead and put me down for being nosy as well! LOL

But really, it is nice to hear the stories behind the dishes, isn't it? :)

Lyndsay - Welcome back to you too! I'm glad your back in business and look forward to checking out the new, real, you! If you have time, pop into Cookbook Lovers Unite and join in the fun.

HH - thanks, I've missed you too! Its good to be back.

Steph - the need for inspiration was a big part in my joining this group. I def. needed it too!

Pixelgal - you don't give yourself enough credit by half! But still, I'm happy I stole your copy! ;)

Charmian @Christie's Corner said...

At least this recipe had instructions. My grandmother's recipes listed the ingredients and temperature. After that? You were on your own.

Nice to see you back!

Wilma said...

Hi Auntie!
Those cookies are calling my name. Mom on the other hand was enjoying your prose. She said you perfectly conjured up a vision of you, in jammies, in the new room, dreaming a young Diva's dream.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Charmian - I've got a few in my old recipe box like that too. Frustrating! But I know you're up to the challenge! Thanks for the warm welcome back my friend. :)

Wilma - aw, you and your mom are so sweet! I could have used your mom's care back then for sure. LOL

Allison said...

What a great post! Thank you for posting to Cookbook Lovers Unite, and for recommending it so highly. I've been having fun with it so far, too. :)

I love your story about how you came to love The Joy of Cooking. Sorry that you had to go through the illness, but your writing about it is enchanting.

Looking forward to reading your future CLU posts! :)

The Mom Chef said...

I love gingersnaps and these look perfect. Of course, if I make them that means I have to make pumpkin dip. I can do that. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Sanjeeta kk said...

Lovely recipe, love the ginger flavors in my cookies.

Sophie said...

Your ginger snaps lookjust wonderful!!

So appetizing too, my friend!

Great as a real good food gift too!

The Duo Dishes said...

Mmmmmm, cookies! These cookies sound particularly good, especially with more ginger. Oh, and the fact that the recipe yields 10 dozen! ha! That's enough for the entire holiday season.

Cathy Pieroz said...

Mmm ginger snaps. Such a classic, I love these! - Cathy Pieroz at Ray White Alexandra Hills