Monday, October 9, 2006

Fall = Ginger Snaps

My version of heaven would be endless autumn. And not just the beautiful crisp weather or the flaming trees against the bluest sky, but all of it. I love wearing my winter coat for the first time and finding a few left-over memories from the previous winter stowed away in the pockets. I love going to the Farmer's Market in Copley Square. I love seeing all the fruits and vegetables spilling out of their baskets and watching the people mill around fingering the last tomatoes and asking each other how the pears are this season. I love smiling at my favorite vendor, handing him a bag of apples--a different kind every week--and asking him about the harvest. I love drinking red wine out of a tea cup, making vast pots of soup and chili for my friends and family, and leaving ginger snaps out in bowls. I love the anticipation of the holidays to come. I love that I truly believe I can finish every single one of the crafty projects I have planned as gifts for the people I love. I love it all. Autumn is a season of change and I love the feeling of living on the cusp of something new. It makes me feel like everything is possible. Everything is moving and changing. It's the moment before the adventure begins and the hero sets out with his backpack slung over a shoulder.

On my runs through the park the past few weeks, I've been listening to The Power of Myth, conversations between Bill Moyers and Joseph C
ampbell recorded before Joseph Campbell died. There are many things in these conversations that speak to me as a writer and a person in her late twenties and as a person traveling through her life. But there is one phrase that I keep coming back to. Moyers and Campbell are talking about the beginning of the journey and the types of people who become heroes in the traditional myths. The most puzzling kind of hero is the one who comes upon his adventure unexpectedly, like Han Solo in Star Wars who gets unwillingly swept into the adventure. Campbell calls this the 'serendipitous adventure,' and Moyers asks if this kind of adventurer is still considered a hero. Campbell has this reply: "The achievement of the hero is one that he is ready for, and it's really a manifestation of his character. It's amusing the way in which the landscape and the conditions of the environment match the readiness of the hero. The adventure that he's ready for is the one that he gets."

That's the line that keeps drifting through my mind as I walk through the Farmer's Market or look at the changing trees on my bus ride back from New York: "The adventure that he's ready for is the one that he gets." I feel on the verge of an adventure. I feel my life changing around me, threads of possibility and change rippling outwards. I've been playing with a lot of ideas about what I want for my future--both the near future and the far future, for my individual self and my career and my life with S., et cetera, et cetera. More specifically, I feel that my life has been moving in the direction of merging cooking and publishing and writing. This has been slowly developing over time, mostly without my knowledge, and it's a surprise to see them coming together now. I'm not sure exactly how these different things will unite, but I feel very sure that they will. For the moment, I'm happy to be on the edge of this change, feeling it grow, and not pushing things too quickly.

And in this spirit of movement and possibility, I give you my favorite cookie recipe: ginger snaps. Perfect for an afternoon snack with tea, evening dessert, or even a quick breakfast-on-the-go, the ginger snap is certainly the embodiment of possibility! My college roommate, R., was the first to introduced me to ginger snaps. A master storyteller herself, she had many eloquent things to say about the union of sweet sugar and spicy ginger, the balance of chew to crunch, and the harmony of the overall cookie. I still remember sitting in the window seat of our dorm room with her. I like to think it was autumn and maybe some afternoon sunlight was coming in through the window. She was eating a ginger snap, stolen from the dining hall, with her head tilted back and her eyes closed. S
he very precisely ate one bite of cookie, chewed thoughtfully, and handed it to me for the next bite.

Ginger Snaps
from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook

Makes six dozen 1 1/2-inch cookies

2 1/3 c. (9 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c. (4 7/8 oz) shortening
1 c. (7 oz) sugar
1 large egg
1/3 c. (4 oz) molasses

for topping: 1/2 c (1 1/3 oz) cinnamon-sugar (2 tsp cinnamon mixed into 1/2 c. sugar)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sift together the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, and egg together until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses. Stir in the dry ingredients to make a soft, smooth dough.

Measure out slightly rounded teaspoonfuls of dough, shape into balls, and roll each in cinnamon-sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until cookies are golden brown and ‘cracked’ on top. Cool on wire racks and store in a tightly closed container.

(Nutrition: 50 cal, 2 g fat, 0 fiber)--> Weight Watcher's = 1 point per cookie

Possibilities for decadent future versions:

* Before baking, press a thumb or a back of a spoon into each ball of dough to make a depression in the cookie. After the cookies have cooled, fill with straight cream cheese or cream cheese frosting and a bit of candied ginger.

* Instead of just powdered ginger, maybe try using a combo of powdered ginger, freshly grated ginger, and candied ginger. I think the candied ginger would be especially good for having little bits of chew in the snap. Definite danger of over-ginger-ifying the cookie, though. Experimentation required...

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