Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: Big Chewy Apricot and Ginger Cookies

After making Samantha Seneviratne's incredible Roasted Banana Ice Cream with Bittersweet Chocolate, I decided to buy a copy of her cookbook The New Sugar & Spice. This cookbook was not even on my radar before I saw the ice cream recipe on Leite's Culinaria, although I do recognize Seneviratne's name from numerous dessert recipes from The New York Times.

The cookbook seems quite promising. First, all of the recipes include ingredient weights (imperial units, not metric -- but still, that's a lot better than volume only). Second, the recipes are creative and interesting, but still very accessible. The book is divided into seven chapters: Peppercorn & Chile; Cinnamon; Nutmeg; Clove & Cardamom; Vanilla; Ginger; and Savory Herbs & Spices. The banana ice cream recipe is in the vanilla chapter.

After browsing through the entire cookbook, I noted a lot of recipes that I want to try, but I decided to start out with the "Big Chewy Apricot and Ginger Cookies." These cookies includes three types of ginger (ground, crystallized, and fresh grated), and an ingredient that I have never actually use before: blackstrap molasses. In the past, my only experience with blackstrap molasses was seeing countless recipes warn me not to use it in place of regular molasses. But for some reason when I saw blackstrap molasses for sale at McCutcheon's in Frederick, MD, I decided to buy a jar in case I might ever need it. And so I've finally been able to put it to use!

The recipe is straightforward. You beat room temperature butter and granulated sugar until fluffy; add an egg, chopped crystallized ginger, blackstrap molasses, and grated fresh ginger; incorporate the dry ingredients (flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, freshly ground black pepper, and salt); and stir in chopped dried apricots. You form the dough into balls (I used a #24 scoop and got 24 cookies from a batch of dough) and chill the balls for at least an hour, until firm. Then you roll them in coarse sugar and bake.
These cookies were beautiful after baking. They had a fairly regular round shape and dramatically cracked tops that sparkled with sugar. I absolutely loved them. The cookie itself was fantastically chewy, and the apricots added even more chewiness. The flavor of the cookie was rich and assertively ginger-y without being too harsh. I had been afraid that the cookies might be too spicy, because one batch of dough includes a tablespoon of ground ginger, more than three ounces of chopped crystallized ginger, and two tablespoons of grated fresh ginger. (I should mention that recently I discovered an incredible time-saving product at Whole Foods -- packaged fresh grated ginger from The Farm at Red Hill. I hate the aggravation of peeling and grating fresh ginger and am delighted to be able to buy a seven-ounce package of the stuff for only $5, especially because it keeps well in the fridge and even can be frozen.)

This cookie had everything I want in a ginger or molasses cookie -- intense flavor, satisfying chew, and a light crunch from the sugar coating. I generally think dried apricots are a good addition to cookies, and they are terrific here. The cookies also kept exceptionally well, for about five days. I don't know what would happen if you tried this recipe with regular molasses, but I think that keeping a supply of blackstrap molasses on hand for this recipe alone is totally worth it.

Recipe: "Big Chewy Apricot and Ginger Cookies" from The New Sugar & Spice by Samantha Seneviratne.

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