9:47 am: Browse through recently acquired cookbook, Sherry Yard's Desserts by the Yard. [Old school, I know, but watching her pull molten strands of sugar with her bare hands on an Iron Chef rerun was enough to earn my eternal respect. The woman is fierce.]
9:59 am: Spot recipe for Giant Gingerbread cookie.
9:59 am: Experience violent craving for soft, chewy ginger-molasses confection.
10:13 am: Draft spreadsheet comparing the ingredient quantities and oven temperature of the above cookie with those from three other recipes—an attempt to mathematically determine the perfect recipe. My old favorite, from Bon Appétit, seems to have the thick and chewy [read: vegetable shortening] edge on the competition.
10:19 am: Contemplate chocolate chips as an addition to ginger cookies: crazy or crazy good?
10:21 am: Discover someone has already gone there.
10:26 am: Decide on taste test for evening dessert: classic Bon Appétit Ginger Spice Cookies (the control batch) vs. Orangette's Chocolate Chip Ginger-Molasses Cookies.
10:27am: Realize that cookies alone represent an unbalanced dessert, may require ice cream accompaniment.
10:30 am: Remember that chamber for Cuisinart ice cream maker is already chilling in freezer. (Can make, not buy ice cream.)
10:32 am: Brainstorm ideal autumnal ice cream flavor to complement cookies.
10:34 am: Pumpkin.
10:35 am: No wait: Pumpkin gingerbread.
And so it came to pass that by lunchtime two cookie batters and one ice cream custard base were resting snugly in the refrigerator. Together, they made for a delicious dessert experiment.
First, the cookies:
In the end, my loyalty to the Bon Appétit recipe was reaffirmed. Orangette’s version was tasty as well, but once you got past the allure of melted chocolate (considerable, I’ll grant you), I'm not sure that the chocolate chips actually enhanced the cookie; in fact, at times, their flavor seemed to clash with the molasses. The chocolate variation was texturally inferior as well—less chewy and yielding, which is what I like in a ginger cookie.
Next, the ice cream:
Under the influence of multiple cookies and mild illness, M proclaimed this to be the best ice cream he'd ever tasted. And for me it's definitely up there. Of course, it had the textural advantage of being served straight from the machine, with nary an ice crystal to its name. But it was delicious the next night, too.
Ginger Spice Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Yield: 30 cookies
If memory serves me, I think I preferred these rolled in granulated sugar. This time, I used sugar “in the raw”—the title of a bad Meg Ryan movie?—which had a lovely crystalline appearance, but perhaps a less appealing texture. I may be making this up.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup mild-flavored molasses [I used unsulphured, dark molasses, as it was the only thing available]
Granulated or demerara sugar, for rolling
Combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar, shortening and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets. Spoon sugar in thick layer onto small plate. Using wet hands, form dough into 1 1/4-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.
Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to touch, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 minute. Carefully transfer to racks and cool. [Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.]
Pumpkin-Gingerbread Ice Cream
Partially adapted from The Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco
DeMasco’s recipe came approved by David Lebovitz, which meant I knew it would be good. Though I’m partial to this variation, the pumpkin base is very mix-in compatible. Next time, I may have to attempt the Pumpkin Mascarpone-Cocao Nib Ice Cream I had from the Bent Spoon at October’s New Amsterdam Market.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger [I used ground ginger]
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons rum or brandy (optional)
3/4 cup canned pumpkin, or homemade
4 ginger spice cookies (recipe above)
Make an ice bath by putting some ice and a little water in a large bowl and nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts) inside it. Set a mesh strainer over the top.
In a medium saucepan mix the milk, cream, granulated sugar, ginger, ground cinnamon, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and salt. Warm the mixture until hot and the edges begin to bubble and foam.
Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and gradually whisk in about half of the warm spiced milk mixture, stirring constantly.
Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 160º-170ºF.
Immediately pour the mixture through the strainer into the bowl nested in the ice bath. Mix in the brown sugar, then stir until cool, then chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.
Whisk in the vanilla, liquor (if using), and pumpkin puree. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Fold in the broken pieces of ginger spice cookies.