Sunday, November 14, 2010

Orange Blossom and Crystallized Ginger Cookies!

Hello all! I have been on a short hiatus from blogging lately but no need to fear and wonder how in the world you'll get enough vitamin C and natural anti-inflammatory compounds this autumn. "Why?" you ask yourself out loud (as your roommate shoots you weird looks from across the room, wondering if he should call the white coat men, after all, isn't talking to one's self one of the first signs of schizophrenia?). Now you can rest in peace at night knowing that even if you are a little (or a lot)'ve got a powerful immune system and happy body.

Today's Health Food: GINGER!!!!
"Ginger?" you may be thinking...."Well, I eat a lot of that!" Unfortunately, ginger snaps, gingerbread, ginger ale, and sadly that Chinese chicken swimming in high fructose corn syrup and a teensy bit of artificial ginger flavor are all very inadequate (albeit tasty) sources of high-quality ginger. "So, what's left?" you may ask. Well, lots of great stuff! Ginger and vegetable stir-fry, sliced ginger and local chicken casserole, ginger tea, ginger-lemongrass soup with cilantro, ginger and garlic broccoli, a delicious ginger yellow curry, ginger and butternut squash soup, and today's treat: Orange Blossom and Crystallized Ginger Cookies!

So, get that apron on, get to your local health food store to pick up the ingredients, get baking, and get ready to reap some serious therapeutic value here because ginger is no joke! Ginger has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat and prevent many ailments from an upset stomach and nausea to cancer, arthritis, and respiratory problems. How does this magical rhizome treat so many ailments? A large majority of these ailments like joint stiffness, swelling, arthritis, and cold extremities are all due to poor circulation. Ginger helps encourage good circulation, which gets blood, nutrients, antioxidants, and oxygen to the places that need healing and warmth. In the fall and winter, as it becomes colder, a lot of your body's energy will be focused inward to support the warmth of your torso. This means that your body will have poorer circulation than in the summer months when you feel all springy and limber. Want some warmth? Better joint motion? Increased flexibility? Try chopping fresh ginger and simmering it in some filtered water for 10 minutes in a pot with the lid on. Then add a little stevia and you've got a spicy, warm, tasty ginger tea! Ginger also helps to break up mucus, treats stuffy nose (try the tea!), aids digestion (have the tea before a meal or put some ginger for added flavor in your dinner!), helps suppress pain, and improves liver function. As an anti-inflammatory food, ginger treats pain, bruises, swelling, aches, and infection well. To celebrate, let's have some cookies, shall we?

This is an original recipe that uses butter. I eat butter only a couple times a year and one of those is on
Christmas. The butter I use is from a local dairy co-op called Happy Cow Creamery where the cows are pasture-raised meaning they live under the sun, eat grass, weeds, flowers, and hay in the winter. The cows are given space to move and play, are raised with love and respect, and are humanely treated. Besides the better treatment of animals, these kinds of farms are easier on the environment because the cows eat local grass instead of being shipped chemical-treated corn from Iowa like conventional dairy cattle. The feces of these cows are also worked back into the land to actually create fertile top-soil instead of diminishing it as conventional farms do. In addition still, this butter has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids--the "good" fats we need more of that are present in foods like flax seed, olive oil, hemp seed, and avocados--and are lower in omega-6 fatty acids which are more prevalent in foods like french fries, chips, fried chicken, and conventional meat and eggs. And, by buying this butter, I am helping to support responsible farming practices, local jobs, and the local economy. "What can this butter not do?" you may be asking yourself. Can it vacuum? Can it pay my taxes? Can it write my dissertation for me? I tried to get it to do all of these things and it stubbornly refused. But with the way science is going now, don't be surprised if it can soon learn to do the laundry, feed the dog, pick up the kids from school, AND still make the best dang cookies around! But until then, let's just stick with the cookies.....

Just to get you drooling, I'll show you a picture FIRST (it is a tactic I use to pull you into my cooking and to convince you to try this easy recipe so that when you try it and realize how heavenly these cookies are, you'll become an instant addict. It's a power thing.........).

Orange Blossom and Crystallized Ginger Cookies
-makes about 4 dozen medium-sized cookies or 6 dozen smaller snack cookies
-preset the oven on 320 degrees Fahrenheit

You know you want it!
  • 1 1/3 cup organic brown rice flour (this flour is healthier than wheat and creates a better texture for this cookie)
  • 1 1/3 cup organic unbleached pastry flour
  • 2 cups Sucanat sweetener (can be found at any health food store or Whole Foods)
  • Powdered stevia or stevia liquid to taste (add a little at a time, mix into the batter and taste....)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, Celtic sea salt, or Himalayan pink salt
  • 2 tsp organic and real vanilla extract or 1 1/2 tsp organic vanilla bean paste or powder
  • 2 cups organic and preferably local butter, softened --NOT melted!-- (check out your local health food store for best options)
  • 1/3 cup orange blossom water (easily found at Whole Foods, or in the "International Foods" section of your local grocery store. Can sometimes also be found in health food stores. If you cannot find this item, no worries, although it really makes these cookies amazing and I get an entire bottle for only $3
  • 2 cups of organic crystallized ginger, chopped into tiny pieces (measure BEFORE chopping)
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves

-Preheat that oven (if you haven't already). 320 degrees Fahrenheit 
-Mix it all up! All of it!! Measure everything out and throw it into a big, ole bowl, roll up those sleeves, take off your watch, your rings, and get to mixin'! (The best part about this is that you get to lick your fingers when you're done!!) But really, there is a method to the madness. The subtle heat from your hands warms and softens the butter and the sugar, and thus helps incorporate all the ingredients...that is the baker's REAL secret....everything is done by hand!
-When done mixing, taste it. Everyone's palette is different. Do you like more orange blossom water? More sweetness? More vanilla?
-Line 2 large or 3-4 smaller baking sheets with parchment paper. The parchment can be found at any grocery store or health food store and is extremely important! The parchment prevents the metal cookie sheets from becoming too hot and burning the underside of the cookie before the cookie is actually done. The regrettable "Burnt-Bottom, Raw-Inside" syndrome. Sad.
-Shape the cookies into ping-pong sized balls for medium-sized cookies and flatten slightly on the tray. Keep cookies 1/2 an inch apart. OR shape the cookies into smaller sizes but note that if you do this, the cooking time will decrease some.
-Bake cookies at 320 for 30-45 minutes. You want them a light brown color and to be a little hard on the outside. After 30 minutes, take a cookie out, break it open and see if there is a darker brown inside. If so, it is not done yet....give it 5-10 more minutes. My batch took exactly 48 minutes to cook, so, just be attentive and check them every 7 minutes or so.
-When done, use a spatula to transfer them to plates and let cool.
-Eat as is or follow directions to make the glaze, below....

Local Honey Glaze:
  • 1/4 c local honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste, powder, or extract
  • 1 heaping Tbsp coconut oil 
  • 1/4 c local honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste, powder, or extract
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp organic confectioner's sugar
METHOD for both options:
-Mix all ingredients thoroughly
-Using a basting brush or offset spatula, glaze the tops of all cookies when warm or cool
-Let the glaze set 20 minutes

WARNING: These cookies are crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, cohesive yet crumbly and very, very addictive.

Enjoy the pictures below!!
On the ingredients list....some healthy flours

Orange Blossom water to add that interesting yet subtle taste to these cookies

The dark brown is an unprocessed and mineral-rich sugar called Sucanat

Local butter made from the milk of pasture-raised cows!



Baking in the oven

Glazing the cookies using local SC honey

Perfect taste and consistency. My mom swears it is one of the best cookies she has ever had.......and my mom has tried a LOT of cookies!!


Gerald said...

Fantastic! Well worth the wait! ;) I love the way you write too. Very engaging and amusing. Many thanks!

Tyler said...

These look really good! Say, what's the shelf life of ginger and the best way to store it?

Stay spicy!

Samara said...

Gerald, thank YOU!
Tyler, the shelf life of fresh ginger is about 2 weeks if kept in a dark area of the fridge (or wrapped in a cloth and put in the fridge). However, this recipe calls for crystallized ginger, which is ginger preserved in turbinado sugar. This kind of ginger will last for months in an airtight container in your pantry.