My Girl Scout Troup did not mind cutting corners where it was valid to cut. For the holidays, all the girls would make individual gingerbread houses. I remember seeing massive gingerbread castles in the malls and re-creating them in my mind for the Girl Scout night: balconies for Repunzel, idle pools for carp, and canopy beds for myself. Instead of going through the process of making the gingerbread sheets, we used graham crackers. Instead of a massive castle, my house ended in a pathetic square with frosting oozing out of corners, a leaning door, and extra candy haphazardly stuck on to pick off and eat. I was still always proud of my creation, as everyone was of their own, but I always wondered what the real thing tasted like.
I have since tasted ginger in many forms: gingerbread, gingersnaps, ginger ice cream, raw ginger, candied ginger, ginger tea (my favorite is the ginger ice cream). All the different forms amaze me. The Chinese use ginger in much of their cooking, teas and as an herbal remedy. Strangely enough, I recently read that it is American ginger that is so prized and often imported to China (I now forget the source). Baked into breads and cookies, the flavor of ginger is superb. It looses much of the bitter-root taste and blends nicely with autumnal spices (which I would categorize as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc).
I recently had the hankering for some ginger cookies the other night. But I had also seen some pumpkin-ginger muffins that looked fabulous and wanted to combine this pumpkin-ginger fantasia into cookie form. The result: the hit of a recent birthday party. Sweet, tangy, and a great pick-me-up. The perfect calm for my desire. I now may try my hand at the real gingerbread house creation… (the original recipe is from epicurious which I altered to my own madness and advise you to do the same.)
Makes about 40- 4-inch cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2-¼ tsp baking soda
1-¼ tsp ground cloves
1-¼ tsp cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
½ cup unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs
1- 15 oz can pumpkin puree (plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
½ cup candied ginger, chopped into small bites
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
1-½ cups powdered sugar
1-½ Tbl water
1 Tbl molasses
1) Preheat oven to 325F
2) In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cloves and cinnamon
3) In another large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Beat in molasses and eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in pumpkin puree. Gradually beat in flour mixture and combine well, stir in candied ginger.
4) On a cookie sheet, lay out 2-inch dough balls. They will be gooey and sticky and will melt down significantly, so keep well apart (these will form 4-inch cookies)
5) Bake cookies in middle of the oven for 15 min, or until puffed and golden (cookies should be soft). Transfer with a metal spatula to a cookie rack to cool.
6) While cookies are baking, prepare the frosting. On the stovetop, low heat, slowly melt down the chocolate. In a mixing bowl, stir powdered sugar, water, molasses and chocolate until well combined and pasty (add more water as necessary). Once cookies are done, use the back of a spoon to gently spread onto the middle of a cookie. Top with a small piece of candied ginger.