I read a lot of cooking magazines, but my favorite one is Fine Cooking Magazine.
It is the only one I currently subscribe to, mainly because it teaches cooking technique and in-depth recipes with a lot of photographs that perfectly illustrate tricky processes that are difficult to explain in words.
When you see a lot of my recipes on this blog illustrated not just with the finished dish–but instead with a full range of photographs showing the process of the dish being cooked–that is inspired by the photographers in Fine Cooking.
But what is weird–as much as I love it for being a real cooking magazine that is primarily about cooking and not about liftestyle, travel or food snobbery, I seldom actually cook from it.
I don’t know why, except I seldom ever cook directly from any one recipe. I have too much fun looking at a recipe, reading it over a few times, fixing it in my mind and then going forth to create my version of the dish to sit and fuss over a recipe and do it exactly like it appears in a magazine.
The exceptions to this rule are baking recipes–I don’t tend to mess with those too much, at least not the first time I try them.
And, in truth, I have done a few baked recipes from Fine Cooking.
One was a fruit tart with a shortbread crust that was a disaster, years ago. I ended up using Martha Stewart’s Pate Sucre recipe instead and then following the recipe for the filling–standard pastry cream lightened with whipped cream–and the topping–fresh fruit glazed with thinned warm apple jelly–from Fine Cooking. It turned out fine in the end, but the original crust that I tried to roll out was straight from hell. Sticky, unwieldy and gross, I ended up tossing it in the garbage.
I have also done galettes from the pages of Fine Cooking, and they turned out beautifully and were so successful, that they inspired me to learn to make pies for real.
This time around, I saw a cookie recipe that looked good in the Fine Cooking Holidays special edition, and wanted to try it out. Ginger & Lemon cookies by Abigail Johnson Dodge, turned out not to look like the illustration in the magazine, but they did turn out pretty well, though, when I make them again, I will add more dried ginger, some cardamom and some lemon extract in addition to the lemon oil I already added.
I think it was a good recipe overall, but now that I have been writing recipes, I tend to notice the way other people write theirs.
The photograph of the cookies in the magazine show them as being very flat–almost as if they were cut out, but the directions specifically state to roll the dough into balls, then “slightly flatten” them before topping them with the minced crystallized ginger and sugar, and eggwhite.
Well, as you can see from my photographs of the finished cookies, this created a rounded dome-shaped cookie instead of a flat one. In order to ameliorate this, I would either add a tiny bit of baking soda to help the dough spread in the oven, or flatten it more completely than stated.
Another flaw I noted was the amount of minced crystallized ginger called for in the recipe did not match the amount shown on the cookies in the photograph–the recipe calls for two tablespoons of sugar mixed with two tablespoons of minced crystallized ginger.
Yet, when I put as much of this topping on the cookies as illustrated, I ran out halfway through.
Also–I think that the cookie dough was short on ginger flavor. Even after I added dried ginger to the amount of grated fresh ginger the recipe directed, I still think a bit more ginger was called for. And, the lemon flavor was definately nonexistant with the small amount of lemon zest called for–one half teaspoon barely gave the dough any lemon tang at all. I added about five drops of lemon oil and that perked it up considerably.
But, all in all–this is definately a good idea for a recipe, and I will be making them again–just more my way next time. (Cardamom will deepen the lemon flavor and also strengthen the ginger while adding a whisper of its own complexity.) As it is–I make note of what I changed this time around in parenthesis, so readers can decide to try the recipe as originally written or my own redaction.
Ginger & Lemon Cookies
Makes around 30 cookies
1/2 pound butter at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (For the 2 tablespoons, which was for the topping, I used 4 tablespoons raw sugar)
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
(five drops lemon oil)
(1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger (I used 4 tablespoons)
1 lightly beaten egg white
Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line three cookie sheets with nonstick liners or parchment. (I only used one pan, and I didn’t do the parchment paper or the nonstick liners, and I had no problem)
Beat together butter 3/4 cup sugar, ginger, lemon zest and salt. Cream together until light and fluffy–about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the dried ginger, lemon oil, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. Add the flour and mix on low speed until well blended and dough just comes together.
Shape tablespoonsful of the dough into 1 inch balls, and set 1 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
Mix together 2 tablespoons of sugar (4 tablespoons of raw sugar) and the crystallized ginger in a small bowl.
Press down on cookie until slightly flattened (Or until 1/4 inch thick) and brush with egg white then sprinkle with sugar’ginger mixture. Pat down with fingertip to get the ginger toping to stick.
Bake for about 11 minutes for dark cookie sheets, or 13 for silver ones, one sheet at a time. Remove fro oven, and let sheet cool on rack five minutes before removing cookies to cool completely on wire racks.
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