Duck Sauce Cookies?

It all started one Yule eve, many years ago (okay, only five years ago) when I had made about six batches of different kinds of cookies that day.

And it was late, but I felt that I had one more batch of cookies in me, so I eyed my ingredients store, and cast about for ideas.

Butter, eggs, sugar and flour were plentiful. Being as those are the backbone of any cookie recipe, I felt confident that I could, indeed, make another different batch of cookies to make it a total of seven.

I had made espresso chocolate toffee chip, Cakes of Aphrodite, raspberry almond bars, Clifford Tea Cookies (a brown sugar and pecan refrigerator cookie), Snickerdoodles and Irish Cream brownies. I didn’t want to make anything else with chocolate, nor did I want to make plain sugar cookies. I didn’t have it in me to make gingerbread and roll it out and cut, bake and decorate the resulting dark cookies–besides, I had no molasses. (That little fact becomes important later.) I wanted to make another drop cookie–one that was preferably chewy and kind of heavy.

I realized I wanted to make oatmeal cookies.

But I had no oatmeal.

What I did have, however, was Ginger-Cashew granola from Trader Joe’s that had chunks of crystallized ginger in it.

“Granola is made from oats”, said I to myself. I pulled out the granola and set it down.

I don’t like brown raisins in cookies. Actually, in all honestly, I don’t much care for the darned things at all. There is a funny taste to them that reminds me of the prune juice I was forced to drink as a child to, ah, keep things moving in my innards, as it were. That hideous black stuff kept me from liking many sorts of dried fruit for years.

But what I do like are golden raisins–they are sweeter and more delicate in flavor. They also are a more attractive color, being as they are not oxidized, so they don’t look like rat droppings.

I pulled out the yellow box of golden raisins and set them beside the granola. And, for good measure, because they were right next to the raisins on the shelf, I pulled out the dried cranberries. And, because they were there, some sliced almonds, and the crystallized ginger. With the ginger, I remember saying aloud, “If some is good, more is better.”

I went to my cookbook shelf, and dragged out my cookie books, and dug about to look for a likely oatmeal cookie recipe to adapt.

It was then that I found out that most oatmeal cookie recipes have molasses in them, to add moisture and rich flavor to what has the potential to be a terribly dry, crumbly and somewhat bland cookie. Being as I am one of those folks who believes in moist and chewy oatmeal cookies, which are endowed with a deep flavor, I was not happy to realize that I had no molasses.

So, I figured, “I know–I will substitute honey,” thinking that the flavor wouldn’t be as dark, but the lighter flavor would go well with the crystallized ginger. So, I dove back into the cupboard and rummaged around until I found the honey jar, which had maybe a teaspoon of the golden fluid smeared to the bottom and sides of the glass.

Not nearly enough.

I could have gone to the store which was just up the road, but I knew it would be filled with last minute shoppers, and at this point, I was too stubborn to consider it. I had to have something that would work to substitute for the molasses. If not honey, then something else. Maple syrup?

A grand idea. Into the refrigerator I peeked, then peered, then dug, with both hands, pushing aside bottles, jars, plastic containers of leftovers and cartons of milk.

There was barely a teaspoon of maple syrup to be found. I briefly thought of combining the remaining honey with the syrup, but realized that in no way would I come up with the three tablespoons required by the recipe. Cursing my frugal nature which leads to me saving every last droplet of whatever commodity graced a jar, I shoved the syrup back to the back of the fridge, and began muttering.

I seemed to recall that I had bought apple jelly a few months earlier which I had used to glaze a fruit tart, but in all of my excavations, I hadn’t found it. As I frantically spun jars in the refrigerator door with my flailing hands, I saw no jar of apple jelly, but many jars of strawberry, cherry, raspberry and blackberry preserves. Rejecting all of them because I knew that their fruit flavors would overwhelm the cookies and quite likely give them an odd pinkish or purple cast, I sighed.

Then, I saw something that looked sort of like orange marmalade or apricot preserves. Either one would be good, though I couldn’t recall having bought anything resembling either option in the past two years. But it didn’t matter. I was desperate.

I grabbed the jar and turned it around to read the label, which cleared the mystery right up.

“Duck Sauce,” it read, quite clearly.

Then, I remembered. I had bought it for a dim sum class where I made spring rolls. Some students insist upon dipping perfectly delicious and innocent spring rolls into duck sauce before dipping them in hot mustard in order to eat them, so I had bought some to present on the side.

I put the jar down, frowning, then picked it up again, and read the ingredients.

“High fructose corn syrup (no big surprise there), peaches, pineapple, peach juice, modified food starch, water….”

I began to feel pretty good. It was sweet, fruity, but not overwhelmingly so, and the high fructose corn syrup would make the cookies really hydroscopic–meaning moist, and apt to draw moisture from the air, rather than drying out and becoming stale as soon as they were breathed on.

Then, I read further:

“…Soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, chiles and salt. No preservatives, no MSG.”

Soy sauce? Garlic? The ginger didn’t bother me much–after all, I had already dragged out dried powdered ginger, granola that featured crystallized ginger bits as well as a bag of nothing but crystallized ginger to go into the cookies. Vinegar didn’t bug me much because after all, it is used in strudel dough to relax the gluten structure to allow the baker to stretch it into paper-thinness.

But soy sauce. And garlic?

So, I opened the jar and tasted it.

Not bad. Mostly fruity and sweet with some tanginess from the vinegar. The salt from the soy sauce was noticable, but heck, cookies have salt in them, right? There was also a definate garlic undertone, but as I was distinctly lacking in options, I decided that no one would know if I didn’t tell them. The chiles–eh–I could barely taste them in the sauce on my finger, so I reckoned that if it was in cookies with bunches of granola, nuts, ginger and fruit in it all jostling about for the eater’s attention, no one would be the wiser.

So, out came the jar, and it was plopped down beside the other ingredients, and I made the cookies.

And lo, they were good. Very good, in fact. The duck sauce gave them a mysterious, wonderful flavor that no one could place. When they inevitably asked what it was, I always flashed a gunshot grin and said, “Duck sauce.”

Which inevitably gave rise to the question, “Why in the world would you think to put duck sauce into cookies?”

Well, now you know.

Desperation.

BTW–the official name of these cookies, given to them by Zak, is rather, uh, not family-oriented. He called them the F—ing Duck Sauce Cookies, with the alternate title, F—a Duck Cookies.

But, in the interest of not being too offensive, for the blog, I just call them

Duck Sauce Cookies?

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
3 tablespoons duck sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granola
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries (unsweetened are best)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, cut finely
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a standing mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, duck sauce and vanilla, and beat until fully incorporated.

In another bowl, combine flours, soda and salt, and mix thoroughly. Add flour, a little at a time, to dough, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl. Mix together remaining ingredients in a bowl, and if your mixer is a heavy-duty model, slowly incorporate them into the dough, mixing thoroughly. If your mixer is too wimpy to handle a dough that stiff, mix them in by hand with a wooden spoon. (This is great exercise for your forearm muscles.)

Using a small cookie scoop, drop by rounded teaspoonsful onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and slightly browned on the tops. Allow to cool for a minute or two on the sheets, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 55 cookies.

3 Comments

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  1. If you hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known from the one cookie I had. Yeah, I could get the oatmeal, and the golden raisins, (thanks. I dispise the little brown, shrivelled, rat turd ones too! Same thing with me and dried fruit in general from those excuses for raisins. But then I discovered Heather’s dates. Not the California kind, but real Turkish and Lebanese dates! YUM!)

    But the duck sauce? Well, there is something vaguely fruity that’s not the raisins, and some spicy taste that I at first mistook for cinnamon until the ginger tang hit me.

    All in all, a fantastic cookie, and if I hadn’t been in somewhat of a hurry, and known that the cookies served a higher purpose, you probably would have had to chase me out of the kitchen ;-)

    -Dan

    Comment by Dan Trout — September 16, 2005 #

  2. LOVELY story. Who’d a thunk? I’m a really really basic cookie person – refrigerator cookies flavored with whatever I have at hand that I like. Gingerbread. OK we just used up my repetoire.

    But I have been known to get fancy with the refrigerator cookies – like one side orange and one side chocolate then twisted into a yin-yang spiral.

    Best part of your story by the way is the name!

    Comment by Owen — September 16, 2005 #

  3. Depending on the brand of duck sauce, Dan, it is sometimes more or less obviously odd. But it does add a richness that is hard to beat. We still have some if you want to haul yourself on over and have a few….

    Owen–I love to innovate with cookies. They were the first thing I really became expert at making–by the time I was twelve, I was doing most of the Christmas baking–by fourteen, I did all of it.

    Even the family traditional recipes that I make now, have all been changed so that they are uniquely my own. The Snickerdoodles have lemon in them, the chocolate chip cookies have espresso and cinnamon, and the vanilla iced cookies morphed into rosewater flavored Cakes of Aphrodite long ago.

    Every year, I try to come up with some new innovation. Last year was Aztec Gold brownies–who knows what I will do this year.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 16, 2005 #

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