At this point in my experimenting, only one recipe has wowed me -- the chocolate thumbprints -- but they were too fragile to survive the Cookie Bonanza. This week, I thought I might experiment with a new recipe to replace the "spice cookie" slot in my assortment, previously held by chocolate gingerbread cookies. Although that recipe had been well-received by friends who had eaten them, neither I nor my family was particularly crazy about them. For inspiration, I chose this time to look to a different source: Carole Walter's Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets. I felt like I was depending a little too heavily on Martha Stewart for my cookie recipes, and I had recieved Great Cookies as a gift from a friend and not made anything from it. Indeed, my bookshelf is laden with cookbooks from which I have never prepared a recipe, and it is a minor goal of mine to try to make at least one recipe from each of them.
When I saw a spice cookie in Walter's book that utilized a cookie press, I thought I would give it a try, as it would give me another opportunity to use an under-utilized kitchen gadget. After all, the cookie press comes with several seasonal dies that extend beyond the Christmas season; it seemed a waste to only use it once a year. So with my pumpkin die loaded and ready to press, I set to work on the cookies.
Walter's original recipe called for a thin, wafer-like cookie, and I knew my decision to change the shape would likely alter both the consistency of the cookie, and the baking time. Instead of thin, crisp wafers not unlike Moravian spice cookies, I ended up with thicker, softer cookies more in line with commercially available gingerbread. The cookies that resulted were buttery yet moist, with a subtle spiciness. They would have made an excellent accompaniment to a steaming cup of tea.
However, they were not nearly spicy enough for me. In fact, my first instinct upon tasting them was that perhaps I needed to replace my ground ginger before the start of the holiday season. They did improve somewhat upon sitting in terms of flavor, but they still weren't intense enough for me. I was insufficiently moved by this recipe to want to use it to replace either my "spice cookie" offering, or my "presed cookie" offering (which were kid-friendly vanilla-bean spritz cookies last year.) However, if you like your spices mild and subtle, I might recommend this recipe if you have a cookie press in your closet that's gathering dust.
adapted from Carole Walter's recipe for Spiced Rickrack Wafers
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c. unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, clove, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium-low speed until creamy and lightened in color, almost 2 minutes. Add the 3/4 cup of sugar and mix for another 2 minutes to combine. Mix in the egg, molasses, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
3. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing only to combine after each addition.
4. Load the cookie press die of your choice. Following the manufacturer's instructions, fill the press with dough, and press onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 1-inch apart.
5. Bake cookies 7-10 minutes or until edges begin to color. Do not overbake.