Regular readers of Hawleyblog know how much I love Martha Stewart's Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies. I found out last week that my friends Desirée and Bob are big fans of them too; they make them every Christmas. D mocked me for skipping the step of rolling the balls of dough in sugar.
Anyhow, the topic came up because I had e-mailed D about my latest and perhaps greatest ice cream creation: a frozen-dairy version of those very cookies. I made my first batch the last weekend of November, and I made a second batch last weekend.
I gave some of the first batch to Jen, who raved about it in an e-mail ("Damn, that's good ice cream!"), and I took some to the Gamesters that Sunday, who also swooned. My Gamester buddy Jack, in the sweater vest in the photo, e-mailed to tell me he thought about it all week.
When Mark sent this photo out, he included this message in the e-mail: "Cupcake," which, ARROHK, is my nickname in the group because there are other Bills who come, "made ice cream. He took it out so we could inspect it. He even let us touch it...." To which I replied, "I let you touch it ... gingerly. Hah!"
I used three different recipes to come up with my recipe: my basic, double ice cream recipe, which establishes three pints of half and half as the dairy component; the cookie recipe itself, naturally (whose name sometimes, though not in The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, where I first discovered it, starts with "Chewy"); and the Gingersnap Ice Cream recipe from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, which made me realize I could use molasses in ice cream. I don't think it would have occurred to me to include molasses otherwise even though it's an important contributor of flavor to the cookie.
I heated up about a cup* of peeled, chopped fresh ginger; three or four short cinnamon sticks; three cracked nutmegs; and about six cloves in the half and half until it came to a simmer. Then I let the spices steep for about an hour. I mixed together 12 egg yolks, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup molasses, and 1/4 cup of white sugar. After bringing the half and half to a simmer again, I poured it over the sweetened egg mixture and whisked it thoroughly. I returned it to the stove to heat again and thicken and then poured it through a strainer, to remove the bits of spices, and over, the first time, 3 oz. or, the second time, 4 oz. of semisweet chocolate. I whisked it together again and put it in the fridge to cool. It didn't take long for it to solidify in the ice cream makers, and it was really thick and rich.
When I next make it, I'll reduce either the number of egg yolks or the amount of molasses or both, trying to use the minimum number/amounts of those ingredients while retaining the same rich flavor and texture. It does taste remarkably like the cookies. Desirée and I thought it'd be great if we got together around the holidays and made ice cream sandwiches out of their cookies and my ice cream. O-M-G. My head almost wants to explode from the potentially overwhelming awesomeness of that combination.
The December issue of Food & Wine has a recipe for Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies from Matt Lewis of Baked, the bakery in Red Hook he opened with business partner Renato Poliafito. (I've asked for the Baked book for Christmas from the Gerbers or Dad and Jean.) Despite the identical name, this one's a fairly different cookie from Martha's. These are cut-out, not drop, cookies. And since Pat gave me a basset hound–shaped cookie cutter the last time I visited her, I made me some Rudy-style CG cookies.I was thinking about skipping the icing, which consists of only enough egg white to moisten the large amount of powdered sugar and only enough lemon juice to (I imagine) kill whatever germs might be lurking in the egg white. But after trying one of the plain cookies, I thought I should add some icing to pump up the sweetness. I didn't attempt the Mascarpone Filling, which turns them into sandwich cookies, though I reckon I will at some point. I ended up making about 2 1/2 batches of the icing because after flubbing some of the decorating, I needed more icing to cover up my mistakes. And I ended up covering or near covering a good number of the cookies.
With the last bit of dough I had left at the end, I made a cookie that was meant to look like Emme, though it maybe looks more like a cat. Pat got the cookie cutter at the closing sale of a longtime New Hope kitchen-stuff store. (It was the good kind of store closing; the owners were retiring after many successful years.) I'm sure she would have gotten me a corgi one too if she'd spotted one.
I mailed some to Will and Mauricio in New Orleans and took some to the Gamesters this past Sunday, which, of course, involved some posing for photographs. Fellow Gamester-baker Barry, who's at left in the first photo, made M&M cookies with white chocolate and nuts.
The past three weeks or so, I've been eating passion fruits like they're three for a quarter. The organic ones at my local health food store are actually about $2.60 apiece, but I'm splurging on them because they won't be around for too long and they taste magnificent.
I thought I'd taken a picture of one of them cut open to show the unusual interior, but I didn't. And because I don't have any ripe ones at the moment, I'm going to link to some gorgeous pictures I found on Flickr. Here's a shot of a passion flower taken by Nganguyen, who lives in Hanoi. Here's a shot of the outside of the fruits by sweetbeetandgreenbean, who lives in Hollywood. And here's a shot of the inside of the fruit by windelbo, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. I've learned that passion fruits come in different colors, even on the inside. This yellow one has red pulp/seeds. The only ones I've encountered so far are purple on the outside and orange-yellow on the inside, although the ones I have in my kitchen now have an exterior that looks more olive than purple. Maybe as they ripen, they'll turn more purple.
I was on a huge kick for mangos there for a while, but I've had some absolutely terrible ones lately, from Brazil, including some that I'm assuming must have gotten frozen because the flesh was all brown and totally inedible. Before this rash of bad ones, I had some great mangos from Ecuador. I'm finding that I tend to have better success with the yellowish-tan–skinned ones than the ones that shade from green to red. The yellow ones are smaller, but they're much less often stringy.
I made Carrot Macaroni and Cheese a few Mondays ago on a day off and took it over to share with the Schultieses for dinner. It sounded like a wonderfully delicious combination of carrot, orange, pasta, cheese, and tarragon. What's not to love? But it far from bowled me over. It didn't have enough cheese to satisfy me, which is odd, considering I'm by no means the biggest cheese fan. And the carrot taste didn't come through enough either. It mainly tasted like tarragon, and although I'm certainly fond of that herb, it's not the dominant flavor I'd want in a mac and cheese.
I also took over some garlicy sautéed spinach as a side dish. Abbe really impressed me by eating all of her serving of M&C and at least trying a real forkful of the spinach, which I figured would be a hard sell. Jen liked the M&C a lot; Bob thought it was only OK. Zane didn't eat much of it, but his system was all mucked up from antibiotics for an ear infection.
I think I'd try CM&C again, only with more cheddar. The recipe comes from Ubuntu, a vegetarian restaurant in Napa, California, and it's supposed to be healthier for you than regular M&C because of the addition of the carrot purée. But I figure if you're going to make M&C, it's got to be satisfyingly cheesy.
Two Fridays ago, Bob and Jen had a couple of very cool straight couples—Stacy and Brett and Tim and Lauren—over for pizza night. (Bob works with Tim, and Jen used to work with Stacy.) We drank many bottles of wine that night, and conveniently for me, my favorite was one that B or J had picked up at Big Nose Full Body here in the Slope: the 2005 Matchbook Tinto Rey, which is a California wine made of syrah, Spanish grape tempranillo, and lesser amounts of malbec, petit verdot, and graciano, which is another Spanish varietal. I immediately said it tasted like butterscotch. But by that time, to be honest, I'd had quite a bit of wine, so who knows, I might have been talking out of my butt on that. The reviews I've read online all say it's supposed to be a jammy fruit bomb and don't mention butterscotch, caramel, or anything similar. Thankfully, I bought a bottle of my own that I plan to drink at Christmas solely for research purposes. ;-)
*That amount is really a best guess. I bought a piece of ginger that looked about the right size at the health food store, and I'd guess now that it must have amounted to about a cup after I peeled and chopped it.
I meant to mention the cookies I took to the pizza dinner. I bought them at the Rubyzaar booth at the Union Square Holiday Market. I got some Classics so Bob wouldn't complain about there being no just-plain-chocolate-chip cookies, with nothing fancy in 'em. The others, in addition to the chocolate chips, had fun things in them like mint (Casbah, my personal favorite); Vietnamese coffee and sweet milk (Hoi An); and peanut butter and dried banana (Bissau). Major yums.