When I received my copy of Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, I turned directly to the Cookies and Bars section.
I’m not sure why because the book is filled with every other treat imaginable – pies, tarts, bundt cakes, layer cakes, cupcakes, waffles, donuts and scones. The subtitle of the book is, Classic American Desserts Reinvented, and these experienced authors and bakers have left no stone unturned.
Lewis and Poliafito are authors of another, very popular, cookbook, Baked, and own a Brooklyn-based bakery of the same name. It was love at first word as I read the introduction when Lewis explains how he no longer plans vacations like a normal person. He writes:
In addition to choosing the mountain, the condo, and the best month to ski, I might also insist that we spend a day off-slope in search of a much-written-up, much-blogged-about creamy bourbon milkshake.One, he mentioned food and travel. Two, he mentioned bourbon.
I’ll sum up my review of this cookbook pretty quickly – if you love to bake or want to love it, you need this cookbook. The recipes will spark some memories of old time favorites, but you might also be introduced to delicious cakes and pies you were previously unfamiliar with.
Each recipe begins with an interesting story. The instructions are straightforward and well explained. The only thing I might fault is that the ingredient list is difficult to read due to small print and italics, but it emits a bit of style that goes so well with the book that I’m willing to overlook it in my recommendation.
The Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, Salt-n-Pepper Sandwich Cookies, Carrot Coconut Scones and the Caramel Apple Cake are all on my to-bake list. For this review, however, given my current schedule I chose something a little ambitious, but no less delicious.
The name given to these cookies in the book is Joe Froggers and a wonderful little story accompanies this name. However, according to the Baked Note (little tips throughout the book) the original Joe Frogger was made with all vegetable shortening. The authors switched this to half butter, half shortening and warned that an all butter cookie just wouldn’t be a Joe Frogger.
So unfortunately, I guess I can’t call mine Joe Froggers because I don’t use vegetable shortening in my baking. I can, however, give it the second name given in the book – Ginger Rum Molasses Cookies.
If you are looking for your next gingerbread man, I’ve found him for you.
This cookie bakes up into a chewy, soft, spicy cookie. As you have probably already guessed, yes, it is going on the holiday baking list! I love this cookie!
I used my standard white whole wheat flour, dememara and mascavo sugar, but I am printing the original recipe here for you to do as you wish. The dough needs to be refrigerated so plan ahead when making these.
This cookbook is one for your baking bookshelf. If you can’t get it in time for your holiday baking, I’d highly suggest putting the book itself on your gift wish list!
Ginger Rum Molasses Cookies
Yield: 36 to 48 cookies, depending on the size of the cutter
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup vegetable shortening
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups molasses
3 tablespoons dark rum
Coarse sugar for décor
Whisk the flour, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda together. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until there are no visible lumps. Add both sugars and beat just until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, add the molasses, and beat until the mixture is uniform in color.
Prepare 1/3 cup very hot water. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the hot water; in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, add the rum, and mix for 15 seconds. Cover the bowl and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Roll the dough into a ¼ – inch thick round. Cut out the cookies with a 2- to 3-inch round cookie cutter, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle a tiny bit of sanding sugar onto each cookie.
Bake the cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, until they are set. The author notes – 8 minutes for a chewy cookie, 12 minutes for a crispier cookie. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me free of charge for review purposes. I was not required to write about it nor did I receive any compensation for doing so.