Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys and Book Review

What would you do if you could have a new cookie recipe every day of the year? Would you bake a batch each day? Would you wait for a special holiday?

With The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life by Anna Ginsberg (Andrews McNeel Publishing), you could do both. Of course, the holiday option might be a challenge since Ginsberg's book includes holidays, remembrances, and special events for every day of the year! These holiday range from quirky to classic: Day of the Ninja (Chocolate "Ninjabread" Cookies), Squirrel Appreciation Day (Caramel Nut Bars), Christmas (Almond Ginger Toasts), and Valentine's Day (Mocha Chocolate Brownies). Each recipe includes a full color photograph as well as anecdotes, fun facts, tips, and tricks for creating incredible treats.

Anna Ginsberg is a self-taught cook and grand-prize winner of the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest as well as numerous other local and national contests. She has appeared on the Today show and has cooked onstage with Oprah Winfrey.

The book also doesn't just rehash the same old cookie recipes we've all made a million times. While you will find some old standbys like Oatmeal Cookies, you'll also find they have taken on a whole new life in this book. Other treats are simply one of a kind. As I flipped through the book my eye fell on Halloween (of course) and delectable brownies made with a splash of Absinthe! Yes, Absinthe in brownies. How unique is that? Maybe you're an Elvis fan and would like to try the Peanut Browned Butter Banana Bacon Cookies on the King's birthday (January 8th). No matter what you're craving there's a holiday and a cookie in this book for you!

Unlike so many cookbooks these days, the book is printed in a style that makes it easy to read while in the kitchen. The typeface is sufficient that you won't be squinting to figure out if it's supposed to 1/4 or 1/2 a teaspoon of something.

Of course, I had to try a sample recipe to test just how well crafted these recipes were. I chose the Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys which are presented for Guy Fawke's Day on November 5th.  Fans of "V for Vendetta" might have some inkling of that name, but probably have misconstrued the history. Guy Fawke's Day commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his Catholic co-conspirators tried to blow up Parliament in London. Their goal was to place a Catholic monarch on the British throne and turn the country from Protestantism to Catholicism. The plot failed. Since then, each November 5th Guy Fawkes' Day is celebrated with bonfires and effigies of Guy Fawkes (the "Guys").

The "Guy" ready to be burned in
effigy at a Guy Fawkes' Day
in Great Britain.
Many years ago when I did Revolutionary War living history Guy Fawkes' Day always fell around the time of our largest gathering at Historic Camden, SC. It was the largest event of the year, bringing in people from around the United States and marked the end of the Fall season. As a British soldier (and later a Loyalist Civilian) I always gravitated toward the British camp where Guy Fawkes' festivities were on display. During the day the kids in camp would make their effigies called "Guys" and sit them in chairs in front of their tents. Then when visitors would pass they would ask for a "Penny for the Guy" - an old tradition in England. All during the day you would hear the 400 year old rhyme repeated: "Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot. We see no reason that gunpowder treason should e'er be forgot!" That night large bonfires would be lit and the kids would present the "Guys" to be burned in effigy. Muskets would be fired into the air and fireworks set off. Following that would be a big dance. So, I couldn't resist making some of these wonderful gingerbread cookies for Guy Fawkes' Day. (By the way, to take a look at a celebration here in America check out these folks in Rhode Island who hold a Guy Fawkes' Bonfire Night each November.)

You'll be amazed at the addictive flavor of these cookies. I was intrigued by the combination of cocoa and spices normally found in "hot" gingerbread. Of course, here in the southwest, chocolate and spices go hand in hand. Cocoa can be found in many spice combinations used in savory cooking here. I adored the cocoa flavor with the heat of the ginger and the complexity of several traditional spices.

I found when making these that my dough was a bit loose at first. I remedied this by placing it in the refrigerator for about an hour and then heavily flouring my work surface and hands. I gave the dough a few quick kneads and then rolled it out. The cookies turned out beautifully and were thick and chewy with a flavor that is unique and oh, so interesting. This is one cookie you'll want in your repertoire to impress folks who will be expecting plain old gingerbread around holiday time!

Give these a try and be sure to pick up a copy of Anna Ginsberg's The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life and get set for a year's worth of trivia and baking!

Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys

Recipe by Anna Ginsberg
Spicy chocolate makes this gingerbread unique!

  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 cup hot coffee
  • 8 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup mild molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with nonstick foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the baking soda in the coffee and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy. Beat in the salt, egg, molasses and vanilla. Add the cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and stir until mixed. Using the lowest speed of the mixer, stir in the flour alternately with the coffee mixture.
  4. Roll out the dough about 3/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out gingerbread men and arrange them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the guys appear set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. 
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen
Print This Recipe

An advance copy of the book was received from the publisher for review.

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