Christmas and cookies are synonymous in my house. I bake throughout the year, but when the frost is on the pumpkin, the unsalted butter and eggs go on the counter for a day (and ok, maybe a week) of cookie baking. Each holiday season, I make my mom's buttery, crisp Christmas cut-outs and the cookie of my childhood, spicy ginger with jam.
This year, I got a head start on my baking thanks to a fun program sponsored by Imperial Sugar Company, makers of Dixie Crystals sugar. The program is called Bake It Forward and begins with a tin that you fill with your favorite baked goods then give to a friend who in turn can fill it and send it to another friend. Each tin is marked with a code that can be tracked online; tins may be purchased for $5 from Bake It Foward.
I baked two kinds of cookies for my tin - the favorite ginger cookies and all-purpose second runner-up, oatmeal raisin. I mailed them this morning to a fellow cook, baker, friend and blogger from Open Salon. This has been a year of blessings, and I treasure the community of friendship that I've found on Open Salon.
Spicy Ginger Cookies with Strawberry Jam
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup pecan meal
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 cup unsulphured molasses
1/8 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar for coating the unbaked cookies
About 1/4 cup good-quality strawberry jam
1. In a bowl, stir together flour, pecan meal, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves; set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In mixer bowl, combine butter and brown sugar; beat until well blended. Beat in egg, then molasses and honey. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended.
3. Spread granulated sugar in a shallow pan. Drop cookie dough by heaping tablespoons into sugar. Roll cookies to coat well, shaping them into balls as you roll.
4. Place about two inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. With your thumb, make a small depression in the center of each cookie. Fill each thumbprint with about a 1/4 teaspoon jelly. I find that a baby feeding spoon, the narrow kind with the long handle, is just perfect for scooping the jelly and placing it on the cookie.
5. Bake the cookies until they are brown and feel firm when touched lightly, about 15 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 30 cookies.
The oatmeal raisin cookies are just homey perfection - buttery, cinnamony, somewhat rustic, and if you underbake them slightly, they will maintain just the right amount of chew. The recipe can be found here - it's from Susan Purdy's "Family Baker."
A note: as I researched this story, I found another "Bake It Forward" that doesn't appear to be a part of the Imperial Sugar program. The other Bake It Forward pops up first in a Google search. Here's the link for the Imperial Sugar Bake It Forward program. Be sure to check out its Facebook page, too. I'll keep you posted about the tin's progress across the country!
Text & images copyright 2010, Lucy Mercer.