A journey...

...to discover...

...the heart...

...and soul...

...of a baker.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An Unexpected Interlude (In Which I Receive A Surprise From My Father)

Yesterday (December 17, 2013), Michele and I returned home from being out and about, running errands in the slushy streets of lower Manhattan. I successfully scored a new pair of winter boots to replace the slightly older new pair of winter boots which where a tad bit too small for my big feet. I grabbed the mail on the way up to the apartment and saw that there was a card for us, which I knew was of the Christmas variety, from my father. There was also another envelope addressed to me from him.

I was immediately intrigued. We'd already exchanged birthday greetings (well, I'm late with mine to him but that's not new), so what could this one be? I pulled this out of the envelope:

My printing is nowhere near this legible!
I then pulled this out of the envelope:

My printing is also nowhere this legible!
And immediately burst into tears. There was my mother's handwriting, on a card she'd used to make so many of these desserts I was blessed enough to devour. Years ago, I got a copy from her, which I transcribed to my own recipe book (which still has way too few recipes in it) when I decided to forgo the Cool Whip for actual whipped cream. Now I was holding her original in my hand and the joyous connection I felt to her and my father overwhelmed me. I was simultaneously happy and sad.

I miss my mother. I wish she were here to read this blog and share in these baking adventures with me. I wish she could laugh at my horrendous mistakes and smile at my successes. But even though she's gone, there's a little bit of her in everything I bake, whether I fail or succeed at it.

And that makes me happy beyond measure.

Currently listening to: Dexter Wansel - Time Is The Teacher

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snapped Up – The Short But Sweet Gingersnap Obsession

I thought for sure this entry would be about something other than gingersnaps. I wanted to do something like challah bread (with which I'm having a metric tonne of trouble) , or honey buns, or doughnuts or cake. Anything but gingersnaps. Not that I don't like them; the fact that I love them is well-documented here. I just thought I was ready to move on to something else. But then it happened. I screwed up a batch of snaps that I was making to give to a friend who was in town for a visit. These were tasty but they didn't rise much, were hard, and were singed way too easily. Grumphgrumphgrumph and more grumph.

Nothing flips me into an obsession with a dish faster or harder than a screw up of something I should have down pat by now! I don't really get mad about the situation, unless we're using the classical definition of the word. I become mad about finding the problem and fixing it...and learning from my mistakes. This time it turns out that I needed to learn the exact thickness to roll out the dough, as well as the exact baking time, to make sure the cookies have the right snap yet retain a measure of chewiness. Not many thin gingersnaps have that quality, so I'm setting a pretty high bar for this.

The answers to this problem were actually very simple: roll out the dough right around 1/8 of an inch. It really can't be any thinner than that or else the cookies have too much snap and are prone to burning. As for the baking time, the previous botched batch was in the oven for eight-and-a-half minutes. My baker's-sense (not unlike spider-sense) warned me that eight minutes was the longest I should leave these cookies in the oven.

This fine-tuning gave me the gingersnap cookies I've been after for a while now: snappy and chewy, with not a single singed edge or bottom. I mailed a batch to my little sister, Miss Key, and her family and, according to her, they didn't last long. I also took another batch to share with some friends at dinner the other night and they emptied the carrying tin in short order.

I think I might have finally figured it out!

Currently listing to: Eartha Kitt - C'Mon A My House