Tuesday, March 8, 2011

From Dud to Stud: Ginger-Chocolate Cookies from Sunset Cookbook

Like many families during the holidays, we have a cookie exchange. I always make the family favorite -- Peanut Butter Blossoms -- as well as one new one. This year I made the Ginger Chocolate Cookies from the new Sunset Cookbook.

I have long been a fan of anything by Sunset Magazine. Growing up in Indiana -- Sunset Magazine represented all that was good and golden about California. I collect Sunset Cookbooks from the 1960s and am always thrilled when I find one for sale in my local used bookstore or library.

So I was excited when Sunset announced that they were coming out with their first cookbook in quite a while. And in what seemed like just a matter of months, it was in bookstores.

And what a beauty it is. I can't imagine how it was put together so quickly -- it has over 1,000 recipes and covers everything from artichokes to wine and everything in between.

I heard food editor Margo True speak about the new book at Omnivore Books on Food and was excited to try one of the cookie recipes for the Christmas cookie platter.

So imagine my disappointment when the Ginger-Chocolate Cookies turned out to be inedible. The recipe calls for 2.5 tablespoons of ground ginger. That's a lot but I forged ahead. I tested one before leaving for the festivities and found the ginger to be overpowering. I chalked it up to my wimpy Indiana taste buds and brought them anyway.

Unfortunately, the guests must have also found the ginger to be too much because most of the cookies were left on the platter and the rest were partially eaten and tossed.

And the taste wasn't the only thing that wasn't right with this recipe -- the entire recipe was difficult to make -- the dough wouldn't roll into balls and the dough was too sticky to flatten with a glass as instructed.

Normally I would make them again until I got the recipe to my liking but given that it was the holidays, I just didn't have the time. I must admit it put a damper on my enthusiasm for the cookbook.

But thanks to the first Bakers Dozen event of 2011, I was able to give them another chance.

The topic of the February meeting was Holidays Chapter Two and we were invited to relive the holidays by baking something we really loved, or didn't get to make or maybe make something we wanted to improve upon. We would all taste the goodies then in our meeting tell the story behind what we brought.

Well, you can guess what I decided to bring.

First I checked out the Sunset Magazine website to see if perhaps there was a typo in the recipe -- perhaps the amount of ginger was given incorrectly. I then sent an email to Margo True asking her the same question.

No response from True and the recipe I found online was identical to the one in the book.

Time to tinker! This time I made the cookies using only half the ginger -- 1.5 tablespoons. Still a lot but perhaps would give the cookies the zing editors intended but not be so overpowering.

I also used a tablespoon cookie scoop and flattened each cookie with the palm of my hand. Instead of rolling each cookie in sugar, I sprinkled course sanding sugar on the top of each cookie.

They were delicious. I could now taste the bittersweet chocolate that had been totally overshadowed by the ginger. And they were good looking as well!

I brought my beauties to the meeting and they were almost completely gone by the end of the meeting.

I must admit though that I was a bit embarrassed as I related my story about the cookies in front of the membership when I found that another baker was present that day and she was employed by Sunset Magazine in their test kitchen!

She was very gracious and mentioned that she did remember that particular cookie not being her favorite when it was being tested.

Whew! But I made a new acquaintance and now have a new favorite cookie that might get another chance at the cookie platter next year.

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