Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ginger Snaps

Just in time for Christmas comes this delightful vintage gingersnap recipe, so easy that it can be made after a long day of work. And this recipe is special -- I rarely know the genesis of the recipes I collect, but a very generous reader, Carol Suring of  Suring,Wisconsin, send me a wonderful collection of her mother-in-law's recipes. (Plus a handwritten recipe-filled notebook that belonged to her grandmother!)  The recipes were inherited by Carol when her mother-in-law, who spent her whole life in Oconto County in northeast Wisconsin, passed away. "She was a good cook and was always looking for new and different things to cook," writes Carol. This is certainly true, for the collection was filled with confections I've never before encountered, things like coconut washboards, for example. I know I'll be baking from this lovely gift for months to come.

Now, on the the gingersnaps. Combine the butter, sugar, egg and molasses (in that order) and mix well.

While that's beating, put all the dry ingredients in another bowl, and whisk to combine.

Roll into balls. I did them all at once, then placed them on cookie sheets.

Bake and enjoy. The crinkled tops on some of the cookies resulted on single pans of cookies in the oven. But in the interest of time, I mostly baked two sheets simultaneously.

Like many recipe cards in this collection, it was typed on the back of a card soliciting subscriptions to the Wisconsin Cancer Bulletin.  The recipe method is not included (because doesn't everyone know how to put together a cookie dough?), so I've rewritten the recipe as I made it, with detailed instructions, below.

Production notes: The dough was a bit sticky, so I briefly refrigerated it before rolling. I didn't notice any difference when I added drops of water to some of them, so you can skip that step. These are rather mildly spiced, so you can increase the amount of ginger if you like a spicier cookie.

Ginger Snaps

Preheat oven to 350F

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c molasses
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cloves
1 t cinnamon

Beat butter and add sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
Add egg and molasses and beat well.
Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and add to mixture.
Combine well, but don't over-beat.
Refrigerate dough if it's too sticky.
Roll dough into balls about one-inch diameter
Roll one side in white sugar.
Place on cookie sheet (lined with parchment) about two inches apart.
Bake seven to 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Six-in-One Refrigerator Cookies

Years ago, I received a lovely gift -- a beautiful tin filled with many different kinds of homemade Christmas cookies, When I asked the gift giver how she managed to bake so many varieties, she shared her (and Martha Stewart's) secret: Make one dough, divide it and add a different flavoring to each.

And so I was delighted to discover this same concept among my collection of vintage recipes. This is the perfect cookie recipe if you're in need of a variety quickly. After making one simple dough, divide it into six equal-ish portions and add flavorings to five, leaving one plain (to be frosted later, if you like). The recipe is very, very forgiving -- I misread it and used half the amount of butter called for and used baking powder instead of baking soda -- yet the cookies came out great and were inhaled by the staff at my workplace. And by the DH, a real cookie lover. Who ever said baking is a science? My guess is that with a larger amount of butter, the cookies would be even richer. 

Refrigerator cookies are especially quick and easy; no need to roll the dough and stamp with cookie cutters. Instead, it is rolled into logs, refrigerated overnight (or several hours) and then simply sliced.

The dough is easy to mix together, as long as your butter (whichever amount you use) is softened. It was very easy to work, not sticky at all. 

Form into six balls. Don't sweat the size, just approximate.

Gather your flavorings. I didn't have the candied cherries specified, so I substituted dried cranberries with great success.  You needn't measure the amount of ingredients -- you'll know what looks right. And you can always add in more.

Place a ball of dough in a bowl, add the flavoring...

And relive your childhood Play-Doh fantasies by incorporating the ingredients with clean (or, in my case, non-latex gloved hands).

Just wipe out the bowl, and repeat the process. Mix the chocolate one last. Roll into logs, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, slice each log into coins. Place on a baking sheet.

And voila!

 The recipe card has all the information, but because it's so jumbled, I wrote out the recipe below it.

 Production notes:  These keep very well and even with the reduced amount of butter were still fresh ten days after baking. I would recommend cutting the butter amount in half, and use just one cup. As for the flavorings, I gave some approximate amounts, but you can adjust to taste. For the chocolate cookie, you can mix further to achieve an all-chocolate dough -- I didn't because I liked the swirl. I frosted the plain cookies by making a simple frosting of confectioners' sugar and milk. I then dipped the tops of the cookies in the frosting.

Six-in-One Refrigerator Cookies

2 c. unsalted butter (or two sticks if you misread the recipe as I did)
1 c, white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp.vanilla
4 c. unsifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda (or baking powder if you misread the recipe)

Cream the butter (which is at room temperature).
Gradually add the sugars, beating until well combined.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture.
Form into six one-cup portions.
Keep one portion plain and to the others add: 1/3 c. coconut; 1/4 c. melted bittersweet chocolate; 1/4 t. cinnamon and 1/8 t. nutmeg (or to taste); 1/4 c. dried cranberries or candied cherries.
Form into logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Slice logs and place cut cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake about 10 minutes.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Aunt Rei's Babka

Aunt Rei's Babka is really a modern coffee cake, not the lush yeast-risen pastry that we associate with babka today. Not that there's anything wrong with that! It is still rich and very delicious (and easier and quicker to make). This recipe is courtesy of my friend and work colleague Diane whose extended family compiled their favorite recipes in a digital family cookbook.

I made this twice. The first time, I brought a piece to Diane who, upon tasting, shook her head. It wasn't right. For one thing, the texture was too dry. She checked the recipe against the original handwritten card, and there were no discrepancies. So I made it again, reducing the baking time by 30 percent. And this time, Diane gave her approval. Everyone's oven is different and mine obviously runs hotter than Aunt Rei's.

The batter is easy to prepare. The challenge is putting it together -- layering the batter with the filling. The recipe calls for five layers; you can see I was able to achieve only three.

The first layer of batter and filling.

The cake, released from the pan.

Production notes: Do not overbake! Despite the recipe instructions, start checking the cake at the 35 minute mark. Also, use a 10-inch tube pan. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. Make sure the butter is at room temperature before beginning.