The other day I noticed a package of Penzey's crystallized ginger in my drawer of baking ingredients, and I browsed through the "Ginger" chapter of Lisa Yockelson's Baking By Flavor to find a way to put it to use. Her recipe for "Ginger Butter Balls" caught my eye because it is quick and easy. All you have to do is whisk together melted butter, walnuts, chopped crystallized ginger, powdered sugar and vanilla, and then fold in flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, and nutmeg. You let the batter sit for five minutes, and then form it into balls (I used a #50 scoop) and bake. While the cookies are still warm from the oven, you dredge them twice in powdered sugar.
Buttercrunch Melt-a-Ways (a cookie I love, by the way) from the same cookbook . The ginger butter balls contain ginger, walnuts, and nutmeg, and the melt-a-ways contain toffee, almonds, and almond extract -- but otherwise the ingredient lists and methods are the same.
I love this cookie. It is tender and buttery, and the first bite reminds me of a powdered doughnut (that is a good thing -- I haven't eaten a powdered doughnut in years, but I find them totally addicting). I was surprised at how subtle the ginger flavor was, but the pieces of ginger were quite small (the recipe specifies that both the ginger and the walnuts are supposed to be "very finely chopped"), and I have found Penzey's crystallized ginger to be less harsh in comparison to other brands I've tried. Still, the ginger added a nice little lift of flavor. I think that the walnuts were the more important component here, as the texture of the nuts adds a lot to the cookie.
While cookies of this type go by several names -- including Mexican wedding cakes and Russian tea cakes -- I think that "butter ball" has got to be the silliest, even if it is somewhat endearing. To me, it sounds like a turkey, or perhaps a recipe that would be featured on Saturday Night Live's fictitious NPR cooking show, "The Delicious Dish." But I suppose the name hardly matters -- these butter balls are boffo!
Recipe: "Ginger Butter Balls" from Baking By Flavor, by Lisa Yockelson.
Previous Post: "Melt-Your-Resolve Deliciousness: Buttercrunch Melt-a-Ways," June 20, 2009.