I know, I know. A cookie recipe on Christmas? I had lofty goals of doing a few whole-grain cookie recipes for you this season and then — the season really flew by, didn’t it? But if you’re anything like our family, there is a lot of down time together during this week and making (and eating) cookies is a nice break amidst wrapping and last minute errands. Plus, this cookie is decidedly wintery and could easily be bookmarked for a slow weekend in January or February instead — they’re warmly spiced; boast ground and candied ginger, a kiss of citrus, and a fragrant combination of both honey and molasses. If you’re an afternoon tea drinker, these have your name all over them.
I developed these 100% whole-grain cookies for Attune Foods; they’re made with whole-wheat flour, spelt flour, and honey graham crackers. We’ve made forays into spelt flour recipes on the site this year with Rhubarb Custard Crisp Bars, Buttery Almond Honey Cake, and Muscovado Fig Newtons — if you recall from any of those sweets, I especially love spelt flour for people looking to break into baking with whole-grain flours because it acts so much like all-purpose flour and is an easy substitute in most baking recipes; it’s what I call a great “starter flour.” The ground honey graham crackers help to lighten up and round out the flavor of these cookies, and add a bit of texture as well – making them delightfully tender and chewy at the same time.
We are in California now spending time with family (in the sun!), but I’m looking forward to joining you all back here in the New Year — planning a strong whole-grain breakfast line-up for January, including a book giveaway and all kinds of good, fresh morning ideas. As many of you know, Whole-Grain Mornings comes out December 31st (so soon!) — you can pre-order it now and it will arrive at your home just in time for some New Years inspiration. If you like the recipes and narrative around this space, I know that you’re going to dig the book. It has a good bit of each along with photos around our house and kitchen and the city we call home. Happy, happy holidays to you all! I’ve enjoyed a big ol’ 2013 with you here, and am so looking forward to the year ahead.
Learn More About the Book: Whole-Grain Mornings
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until they become fine crumbs (should yield about 1 cup)
In a large bowl, mix both flours, graham crackers crumbs, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt together.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using hand beaters), beat the sugar, butter, molasses and honey together for 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well. Working slowly, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in the ginger and orange zest.
Divide the dough into 2-3 tablespoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cookie tops become crackly. They will still feel a little soft to the touch, but will firm up as they cool. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.