I committed baking heresy again: I made cookies without a recipe. Well. Sorta. I made cookies with 4 recipes and followed none of them. Ginger cookies. I like ginger-molasses cookies, and every year I add a new variation to the collection
It isn’t that I don’t like recipes. I do! I love them.
I’m just really unfaithful. Sometimes I stray because I lack an essential ingredient (eggs, once) or have an ingredient in excess I’m using up by throwing it into every food I make. (dried cranberries) Mostly I stray for the fun of it. “I wonder what happens if I sub in cream cheese for butter!” “Will honey work in these cookies instead of sugar?”
Fretting over ingredients and measurements goes against everything I enjoy about baking. I’ve learned a few basic principles and proportional balances, and as long as I honor those parameters, I have confidence the results will be edible.
Maybe even tasty.
When I confess to recipe cheating (after I’ve let people eat the results and they come back for seconds) I often get stares of horrified astonishment.
That’s because people believe the phrase “cooking is an art, but baking is a science.” and it leaves them worried that any recipe deviation will lead to disaster.
Not so. Ha. No. First, baking is no more or less an art than any other form of cooking. And second, precision instruction-following is not even a part of the scientific method.
Scientific investigations go something like this:
- Observe a phenomenon,
- Form a hypothesis. AKA make a guess.
- Develop a methodology to test your guess hypothesis. AKA think up an experiment.
- Enact your method. Experiment.
- Document & review results.
Thassit. Reproducibility is the part where you circle back around to step 1 and test what you observed as the result of the prior experiment. In other words, it’s a fancy way of saying, “Can I make it happen again?”
Precision reproduction is important when validating a new scientific discovery, sure, but when it comes to baking?
In a sense I do adhere to the “baking is science” adage, but I do it by enjoying the exploratory observation & hypothesis-testing steps. “Golly, I wonder if these ingredients will go together. They all taste good, and they go well in pairs. LETS DUMP IT ALL IN AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.”
And the results this time were delicious! Here’s the recipe for this year’s chewy, spicy, addition to my ginger cookie recipe collection.
1. Cream together:
- 3/4 c. shortening: 1/2 stick butter & 1/2 package (4 oz) cream cheese
- 1/2 brown sugar (packed)
- 1/2 c white sugar
2. Then add one at a time:
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c. molasses…or more. I put in a fair bit more…
3. In a separate bowl, sift together:
- 2 c. flour
- 1+ tsp powdered ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp cloves if you want. I do not ever want.
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
4. Add dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and mix until just blended.
5. stir in 1/2 c. diced crystallized ginger if you want to really ginger up things.
5.5. Chill dough if you want it to be easy to handle. Otherwise prepare for sticky fingers
6. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
7. Put some sugar in to a bowl, scoop out spoonfuls of dough & toss in sugar to cover.
8. drop sugar-covered dough bits onto parchment-covered cookie sheets.
9. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min depending on size. Done when they are crackly on top & centers flatten slightly.
Try not to eat them all in one sitting.
That’s all the all for now.