Antonio Bakes Pear-Gingerbread Cake

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic brunch hosted by Harvard Common Press in their publishing offices – where there were many shelves of impressive cookbooks to encourage my kitchen obsessions.  One of the first books that caught my eye was Gadgetology, a cookbook for kids about cooking with specific tools that are in most kitchens (mixing bowls, whisks, spatulas – stuff like that).  As a child I had the Klutz Kid’s Cooking cookbook and, in theory, it was great but the best recipe in the whole book was for homemade play dough which isn’t even edible so when I saw Gadgetology I got excited.

I have a nine year-old brother, Antonio, who can usually be found in the kitchen with my mom – mixing things and in general getting in the way.  More than anything I have wanted to get him a good kids cookbook for a long time – I wanted him to have a book full of reliable recipes and consistent easy to understand directions that he could refer to and cherish for a long time.  So while at HCP I perused Gadgetology and, to my great delight, found it to be exactly what I was looking for.  When Adam kindly offered me a copy I did a little happy dance and started plotting.

When I got home that afternoon I showed the book to BF and explained my plan, we would get ‘Tonio a bunch of cookware to go with Gadgetology and then cook with it while my fam was visiting for the holidays.  As plans go it was pretty brilliant and I was able to come up with what I thought were some fundamental kitchenware pieces – nesting bowls, measuring cups and spoons, a paring knife and blade sheath, a small bar board, and some bamboo utensils.  So Christmas came and ‘Tonio was basically bouncing to open his big box under the tree, which I had packed to the gills with his individually wrapped Christmas presents.  He was ecstatic.

Fast-forward a couple days later and ‘Tonio and I are the first people up so we scurry to the kitchen and start perusing Gadgetology.  There were quite a few recipes that we thought looked good – Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and this Gingerbread Cake being at the top of the list.  We went with the cake – it looked breakfast-y and a great use of the excess pears we had around.  It was perfect – spicy and filling, and with the pears it seemed healthy as a breakfast option 🙂  I loved this cake, but the actual cook (‘Tonio did all the work, I was merely a guide and did some of the more challenging stirring) thought it was a little too spicy and asked that next time we decrease the ginger.  He also asked for more powdered sugar topping, so I think his priorities might have been a bit skewed.

Antonio’s Pear-Gingerbread Cake
Adapted from Gadgetology by Pam Abrams

1 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger (‘Tonio recommends only 1 tsp if you don’t like it too spicy)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened to room temp
1/3 cup Molasses
1/3 cup Boiling Water
1 Large Egg
1 Bosc Pear, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
Confectioner’s Sugar (for topping)
Whipped Cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour an eight inch square pan. Sift flour, ginger, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl, set aside.  In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together, we just used upper arms and a whisk but a hand mixer would also work here.  Add the molasses and boiling water the the sugar-butter mixture, mixing well.  Stir the egg into the wet mixture making sure it doesn’t scramble.   Mix the dry ingredients into the wet until everything is just blended, 25-30 strokes by hand.  Fold the pear pieces into the batter until evenly mixed in.  Pour the mix into the pan and bake for 30 mins until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow the fully cooked cake to cool for five minutes in the pan and then flip it out onto a cooling rack to cool another ten minutes.  Dust the cooled cake with confectioners sugar, we made a crosshatch pattern with paper towels and it was pretty neat.  Share the cake with all of your family and make sure to let them know just how awesome a cook you are.  Especially if you’re nine 🙂

Dark and Stormy Cookies

I love a nice spicy ginger beer, something that leaves a lingering heat in the back of my throat.  Now pair the spicy ginger beer with a nice dark and spicy rum and a touch of lime and I will be there.  A dark and stormy is a perfect drink at pretty much any time of year – in the winter it’s got that kick from the ginger beer warming you from tip to toe and in the summer serve it with a big glass of ice and it’s insanely refreshing.  I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with the dark and stormy –  maybe it’s because i’m just obsessed with that gingery bite and the warmth of the rum.  But I do know that more than anything since that first sip of dark and stormy I’ve wanted it as a cookie –  not too sweet an with a nice crunch.  Never did I imagine this.

I created these cookies on a whim – they had been germinating in my head for a VERY long time but the timing was never quite right.  I couldn’t find the right base recipe or I was out of ginger, there was always something missing.  And then, this year I signed up for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (you can sign up to do it next year here) that Julie and Lindsay organized – a monumental collection of bloggers coming together to pack cookies in boxes and ship them all around the country was a perfect excuse to do what I wanted to do – try recipes and make dark and stormy cookies!  So I did what any responsible adult that grew up in a household of cooking will do, I called my mom.

I asked for a recommendation as to what sort of base to make while flipping through my copy of Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and came across a recipe for Glazed Lemon Cookies – a slice and bake that looked easy enough and that I had all the ingredients for (win).  So I threw the recipe out there – what if I used this recipe and swapped out some flavors for others, did Mom think it would work?  She said yes and then goodbye in rapid succession (she had to go to the farm for turkey time).

So, without further ado – Dark and Stormy cookies inspired by my tendency to be a bit of a lush and encouraged by a great many people along the way.

Dark and Stormy Cookies
Adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook recipe for Glazed Lemon cookies and the glaze recipe for Cornmeal-Lime Cookies from Flour by JB Chang.

3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs grated Lime zest (about 1 lime)
2-3 Tbs finely minced candied ginger
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
12 Tbs unsalted butter – cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbs good ginger beer (Reed’s has a great spice, or Barritt’s if you want to stay classic)
2 Tbs dark spiced rum (I adore Kraken – there’s an octopus on the bottle but it also happens to be awesome)

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tbs rum
1 Tbs ginger beer
Zest of one lime (optional)

In a food processor combine the sugar, zest, and ginger, pulse until the sugar looks a little damp – about 7 pulses, this will be a little bit sticky.  Add the flour, salt, and baking powder to the sugar mixture, pulse until fully combined – about 10 pulses.  Add the butter cubes and pulse until the whole thing looks like fine cornmeal – 15 pulses should do it.  In a small bowl mix the egg yolk, ginger beer, and rum together until fully combined, pour this into the food processor, run the processor for another 20-25 secs until the whole mixture starts to come together in a ball.  When the dough has come together turn it out onto a parchment lined counter and gently knead whatever loose flour is still a bit loose into the dough.  Form the dough into a log 12-14 inches long by 2 inches wide.  Wrap this log in parchment paper and stick in the fridge for two hrs or up to two days, on the inverse if you want to cool your cookies quickly you can also stick this log in the freezer for 45 mins – but be careful with this as it can get far too firm if left too long.  Once the cookies have firmed up, preheat  your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and pull the cookies out of the cold place.  cut the cookies into 3/8 inch wide rounds and arrange them on 2 baking sheets about an inch apart, they don’t spread if they have firmed up enough in the fridge.  Bake the cookies fro 12-16 mins, mine took twelve, rotating the pans halfway through baking so that they are on different shelves of the oven and back to front.  When the cookies have golden brown edges and have puffed a bit in the center they are done.  Pull them from the oven and allow the to cool completely.

For the glaze mix the confectioner’s sugar, rum, and ginger beer together in a small bowl, the mixture should be quite runny.  Line the counter under your cookie racks with parchment paper.  Using a  pastry brush paint the glaze onto the tops of the cookies, in two layers (the first should pretty much soak right in).  While the glaze is still liquid sprinkle lime zest on the tops of the cookies, only do this if you are eating the cookies that day or else the lime gets a bit overpowering.  Now go and share these with someone who loves rum and ginger as much (or more so) than yourself.  they will say thank you.