Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The flavor of fall

I'm typing this with big fuzzy socks on my feet, not as some kind of fashion statement*, but because it's downright chilly around here these days. OK, OK. Technically, its only chilly at night, but then it is really cold. That's why I am also sporting an especially tattered old heavy sweatshirt as part of this evening's ensemble. Some folks have the glorious fall foliage tour as a visual cue that the season has changed. My family has the nightly sloppy floppy mommy sightings.

Perhaps that is why we all prefer the cues that come from our other senses this time of year. The sound of rustling leaves in the driveway and USC fans crying their little eyes out**. The smell of wood fires burning*** and stews braising in the oven. That first crunchy, juicy, marvelous bite of a Honeycrisp apple. A steaming bowl of homemade soup with crusty bread to mop up every last drop.

And something, anything, everything laced with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger for dessert.

Comfort clothes and comfort food. Fall is fine by me.

Autumn Spice Cookies

I clipped this recipe from the LA Times food section years ago. It's got all the flavor of a great gingersnap, but the texture is a whole other wonderful chewy, rich, crispy edged kind of thing. They are amazing**** and unbelievably easy.

Preheat oven to 350.

2/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
1 c. sugar

Combine the above in a large bowl by hand until well blended.

In a smaller separate bowl, mix together:

2 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Add this into the molasses mixture, and stir until completely combined.

Put about 1/4 c. of sugar into a small bowl. Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, coat lightly with sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet, then flatten slightly with your fingers. Bake for 9 minutes, or until the edges are just turning brown. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack (cookies will be really soft and bendy). As they cool they will flatten out and the edges will crisp up and the centers will be chewy and spicy and utterly wonderful.

If you do happen to keep them longer than a day, they will become crispier over time, but will still taste delicious.

* Despite the fact that I have recently had my nails done, I am still hopeless in this department.
** After Stanford kicked the &#$? out of them in their worst defeat ever. To quote their coach: ''I'm not sure I have the right words to describe being humbled like this. I don't really know where to put it. ... We have fallen apart and given our opponents the opportunity to do whatever they want, but you have to give Stanford a lot of credit.''
*** Intentionally burning with cut up logs in fireplaces, as opposed to out of control wildfires consuming vast stretches of the county. That is a summer smell.
**** To quote the e-mail I received from a guy who had one of these hot out of the oven this afternoon, "That was probably the best cookie I've ever had. Please email me the recipe if its not a secret." No secrets here. Enjoy!

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