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 had every intention of starting a new tradition this year and hosting a cookie swap with some of our local friends, but somehow the season really got the best of me and it just hasn't happened. But! That hasn't stopped me from getting a head start on holiday baking; I posted a photo on Instagram the other day of some of my very favorite holiday cookbooks, and asked if there was a way we could all just take the whole week off to bake instead of work. Judging from the responses, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks this would be a really great idea. But back here in reality, cookie baking is relegated to later evenings or, I hope, this weekend we'll find some time to eek in a few batches (the recipe for Sam's mom's Nutmeg Logs is up next, and I'm set on making gingerbread men to take with us down to the Bay Area). Right now on our countertop, we've got a batch of these crumbly, chocolatey, whole grain shortbread that have proven to be a big hit. The ingredient list is small and simple, the technique foolproof, and I think they're a real standout in a sea of holiday cookies.
Hello from the other side! I realize we haven't been back here for a few weeks, and I'm sorry for dropping into a little black hole. My cookbook deadline was Monday, so I've been a writing and editing machine, stepping away from the computer to occasionally clean the house like a crazy person or throw together a most random lunch or dinner. But somehow it all came together although there was something strangely anti-climactic about sending it off: In the days when you'd print out your manuscript and have to walk to the post office and seal it up carefully to send to the publisher, I imagine it would feel much more ceremonial and important --you could stroll out of the building and do a cartwheel. Or high-five a fellow customer on your way out. Instead, I was sitting in our dining room on an incredibly rainy, dark Monday afternoon unable to hit "send." My sister Zoe told me to just close my eyes and do it. Sam gave me the thumbs up. So around 3 p.m. that's what I did. With the click of a button, just like that: it was finished.
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.
We've been waking up early these days with baby Oliver. I've always been a morning person, so this isn't particularly challenging for me -- although the middle of the night feedings have proven to be really tough. There has been a lot of finessing of sleep schedules and figuring out how Sam and I can both get enough to function well the following day. And just when we think we have it down ("gosh, aren't we lucky we have a baby that sleeps?"), everything changes. When I was in the final weeks of pregnancy and would talk about how I couldn't wait for the baby to be here, all of my friends with kids would advise me to sleep as much as possible -- and now I get it. I should've napped more. I should've listened. In getting up at odd times throughout the night with Oliver, I've had the chance to occasionally see some really brilliant sunrises (although not this past week which has been a particularly dark one in Seattle); I've made up some wacky baby tunes that I'm happy no one else can hear; and I generally have a good hour in which I can put him in the sling and walk briskly around the house trying to soothe him back to sleep while also putting away a dish or two or making a quick cup of coffee. In that hour, I can usually get something productive done and this past weekend that something was pear gingerbread.