April 18, 2011

A good pie is hard to find.

"What kind of pie?"
"Apple." Kote straightened and cut three careful slits into the crust covering the pie. "Do you know how difficult it is to make a good pie?"
"Not really," Chronicler admitted, then looked around nervously. "Where's your assistant?"
"God himself can only guess at such things," the innkeeper said. "It's quite hard. Making pies, I mean. You wouldn't think it, but there's quite a lot to the process. Bread is easy. Soup is easy. Pudding is easy. But pie is complicated. It's something you never realize until you try it for yourself."
--The Wise Man's Fear, Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is an extraordinary writer. And he's right about pie: It's complicated. So many components can go awry: crust too pasty, filling too gloppy, topping too crunchy.

Enough with the zombie Jane Austen novels. What I really need to see at Barnes & Noble is the pie companion to Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," in which an escaped convict holds a grandmother at gunpoint but instead of killing her, forces her to eat a disgusting pie from Denny's. Who wouldn't want to read that, I ask.

April 5, 2011

slam dunk cookies

My office has Tasty Tuesdays — basically, The Day of the Week on Which We Gorge on Pastries. For this loveliest and tastiest of Tuesdays, I baked gingersnaps. Usually I prefer these guys to be chewy, but I've recently grown fond of dipping the crispy ones into hot beverages: coffee, tea, yerba mate, or even plain ol' hot water (sounds odd, but it's good). Like biscotti, these gingersnaps are good on their own, but get even better after a dip in the hot beverage tub. Besides, dunking is fun, and it's not just reserved for sweets. Apparently, people even soak buttered rolls into coffee! I'd like to try that sometime.
"It was empty save for an old gentleman who picked his teeth with great facial contortions and another gentleman who soaked his buttered rolls in his coffee, to Henry's fascinated pleasure, and then disposed of them in the little interval between his nose and chin. Henry did not wish to leave, but his father wanted his daily walk on the beach and thus he had to abandon his delight in observing the eating habits of the French."
The Master, Colm Toibin

Dunkable Gingersnaps
Makes 24; adapted from allrecipes

2/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar + more for dipping, later
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350° F. Whisk together the oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir in the molasses.

Mix the flour, baking soda, and spices together in a separate bowl, then add to the wet ingredients. Combine into a uniform dough. Pour about 1/3 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt into a shallow bowl or plate. Shape the dough into approximately two dozen tablespoon-size balls, and roll each into the sugar/salt mixture. Place the balls a few inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. No need to flatten the balls -- they should flatten into discs while baking.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the tops crack. Remove them from the cookie sheet and cool on a plate or rack. The cookies will appear deceivingly soft when they first come out of the oven, but in mere minutes they will harden into "snaps" that are perfect for dipping.