Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Ginger Molasses Cookies and kitchen meditations
I baked a cookie and it took me to the other side of the world to a dry lake bed in Sossusvlei, Namibia. That's some cookie.
Food often triggers memories of loved ones, childhood, or far off places through its scent and flavor. The act of cooking itself can be meditative. Sometimes I focus solely on my hands. Other times, my mind wanders to its depths and I revisit a special time or place in my life. With a little imagination, the foods I create can take me anywhere I want with a little game of visual association.
Seeing the cracked appearance of these ginger molasses cookies instantly made me recall the parched earth at the bottom of the world's biggest sand dune. So I thought I'd tell you about it, and give you the recipe so you can experience it for yourself.
It was a cold morning in remote Southern Namibia when we set out with a guide to climb the dune known as Big Daddy. It was a quiet hike, our feet sliding into the iron rich sand as we advanced steadily to the top. It felt like what I imagine it would be like to walk on Mars, with the alien landscape and the hue of the red sand. We were so small in the face of the mammoth dunes that stretched and curved like dinosaur spines as far as the eye could see. Was this nature imitating art or the other way around, we asked ourselves.
Then, from the top, we ran down the side of the 380 meter (1,246 feet) dune, breathless and unafraid of falling.
So why not let a cookie be more than just a sweet indulgence? Put on your hiking boots and take a bite.
Ginger Molasses Cookies
Make sure your spices are very fresh and these fragrant cookies will truly liven your senses.
About 50 large cookies
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound brown sugar
1-1/2 cups shortening
1/2 cup molasses
Sift the flour with the soda, spices and salt.
Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat in molasses, stir in sifted ingredients. (Note: for some reason I had to knead the dough together with my hands, but they still came out fine.)
Drop by rounded tablespoons into a bowl of sugar. Place on baking sheet, (greased, or lined with parchment or a silpat) sugar side up, about 2 inches apart.
Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven 11 - 13 minutes. Cool on racks.