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.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
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.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.