I love to bake, and Christmas is the perfect excuse for me to go crazy. The Christmas cakes are baked and soaking and the Christmas cookie production is well under way. I love to make baking a social occasion, and baking with friends is an important part of holiday preparation. For this post I want to focus on a little “off schedule” baking that I’ve just done. My youngest daughter, Christine, is living in Milan now. I’ve had two opportunities to send her some baking recently. My eldest daughter, Devon, went to Italy for a competition, and she took some goodies with her. Christine’s friend, Sione, is going for a visit, so of course I’m sending things with him. The problem I’ve had is that all my baking isn’t ready yet, Devon left from Montreal last week, and Sione is leaving from Toronto later this week. To make sure that Christine gets her treats, I had to bake some extra cookies, pack them and get them to the other side of the county in a hurry. Simple, right? Oh don’t I wish!
I want to share a cookie recipe that is not part of my usual Christmas repertoire, but I think it is so delicious that I baked a couple of batches (actually 4 but who’s counting?). This is the Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie from Martha Stewart. In fact it is the cookie on the cover of her Cookie Cookbook. It’s the reason I bought the book. (Of course I have since learned that you can get it online, but in my defence I didn’t know about the recipe before I perused the book.) I’m going out on a limb to say that I think this is one of the tastiest cookies I have ever eaten.
Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
- 7 ounces best-quality semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
- In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
I made my cookies a bit smaller than the recipe suggested, and rolled them in sugar before they went into the fridge for the second chilling. Here are a few shots of the baking process.
I like to think that I’m getting pretty good at packing cookies for shipping. I believe the trick is to pack them snugly so that there is no movement when you shake the loaded container. I use cupcake baking papers to nest the cookies and wedge any remaining gaps with shredded paper. Here you can see the first layer of cookies packed, and then the second layer with the plastic wrap holding everything in place – before the lid is even put on. When you pack a container this full, it should then be packed in a bigger box with packing material to cushion against impact. The other thing necessary is a willingness of the recipient to eat broken cookies if things don’t go well. That isn’t usually a problem. This is not a quick process so be sure to allow yourself enough time to do a good job. If you’ve already spent hours baking it is worth it.
Now the only thing I feel badly about is that I forgot to include a Christmas gift that was sitting upstairs… Hopefully I’ll be forgiven.