It may not be a very good month for snow thus far in Jackson Hole, but it's proving to be a good month for cookies. Since I'm not wasting my time swooshing through untracked powder in the mountains, I've retreated to the warmth of my kitchen, and the comfort of cookies, lots and lots of cookies.
In fact, the less it snows the more I bake, as we need to console ourselves with cookies. It works out fine that way.
After much deliberation, I opted to bring pizzelles to the cookie exchange. We can't have Christmas without them.
I was fortunate to get invited to a cookie exchange last week, which inspired me to get going on my long list of essential Christmas cookies. There's nothing like the spectacle of dozens of great cooks displaying their very best cookies for an afternoon of swapping and snacking, catching up and relaxing.
This is Lena's 19th year hosting a cookie exchange.
If you've never been to a cookie exchange, here's how it works. There is one very gracious host, usually the most organized friend in the group, who sends out invitations early enough to give you a few weeks to mull over your cookie baking plans.
Is there anything more lovely than a chewy ginger cookie?
Twinkly star cookies capture the Christmas spirit.
You will be asked to bring 2-3 dozen cookies for the cookie table, and you will be allowed to choose the same amount to take home. Only 2-3 dozen! That's the tough part if you are a cookie monster like me.
Lena makes an army of little chocolate covered cherry mice every year. Not only kids find them irresistible.
Once I get into the holiday baking mood, my kitchen becomes a cookie factory, albeit a messy one. There's not enough time to make all the cookies I want to make, so I go for big-batch crowd-pleasing perennial favorites.
I'd been planning to candy my own lemon, orange and grapefruit peel, but then I found these already made at Aspens Market. At $2.50 each, an incredible deal and timesaver.
If all goes as planned there will be Chocolate Anise Biscotti
, both with and without diced candied orange peel. There will be Sour Cream Cut-Outs and Ninjabread Men
, Butter Mint Pats and Cappucino Coins. There will be several hundred little Rum Balls
, made this year with premium cocoa powder from Caputo's Market in Salt Lake City.
Have you checked out Caputo's Market and Deli in Salt Lake City? They have 6 types of cocoa imported from Italy, which you can buy in bulk.
Rum Balls are the all-purpose holiday pick-me-up. Rich with cocoa and pecans, boozy with rum, and potent with dark coffee, they will help you get through the holidays.
There has already been a batch of Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies, which did not last long, so I'll be making more of those. Made with freshly grated ginger, ground ginger, nutmeg, molasses, and your very best chocolate, they are chewy and crispy and rich, the ultimate chocolate ginger cookie. I may be going out on a limb here, but if I had to pick just one cookie for Christmas, this would be it.
Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
And there will be a trio of my very own power bars
, some made with peanut butter and granola, others with almond butter, figs and chocolate. These will be boxed up into colorful tins and given to the über-athletic friends on my list, to be stashed in their backpacks throughout the winter for high energy snacks.
Chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies get their kick from a heaping tablespoon of fresh ginger.
Let the baking begin.
For a printable version of this recipe, click on the file below it.
Chewy Chocolate GInger Cookies
If I had to pick just one cookie to make for Christmas, I think this would be it.
This recipe comes from Martha Stewart in her cookbook Cookies
. No matter what you think about Martha Stewart, she does have the legacy of some very nice cookie recipes.
Yield: 2 dozen. Plan ahead: the dough should be chilled for 2 hours in the refrigerator before it is rolled into balls. I usually just stick the bowl outside, and let the subzero temperatures do the chilling.
This is an excellent recipe to practice Mis en Place.
Get all your ingredients measured and ready, and lined up in the order you'll need them.
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated peeled ginger
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water
- 7 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch chunks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (for rolling the cookie dough balls before baking)
I used 70% cocoa Valrhona chocolate for my cookies. I like to chop it into shards and chunks for contrasting texture.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
- In a bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and fresh ginger on medium speed until lightened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
- In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add the baking soda mixture. Now add the rest of the flour and mix well.
- Add the chocolate to the dough and mix until just combined.
- Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, and pat out to a 1 inch thickness. Seal with wrap, and chill for 2 hour or overnight in the refrigerator, or at least 30 minutes in the freezer.
- Preheat the oven to 325º F. Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheet and chill for another 20 minutes.
- Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surface begins to crack, 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake! The cookies will set up after they are taken out of the oven.
- Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.
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There are 10 days until Christmas, and I am no more ready now than I ever am. I like to spend several weeks just thinking about Christmas...what cookies I'll bake, the menu for Christmas Eve dinner, and how will I have time to ski...but the execution of Christmas preparation comes later. And typically at the last minute.
A visit to Lily & Co. on Deloney Street in Jackson will get you in the right frame of mind.
Which is why I am always foraging the local shops for that perfect present, long after the shipping deadlines have passed. Fortunately, we live in a delightful place to shop for Christmas presents, especially if you have a foodie on your list.
There it is, the perfect Christmas tree. Chopping down a tree in the forest and hauling it home is one of our Christmas traditions.
Jack got to pick out the tree this year, but maybe next year we won't let him carry the saw.
In my quest for locavore foodie gifts, I first thought of chocolate. We have several artisanal chocolatiers here in Jackson, all with something unique to offer. Lately, I have been addicted to the dark Belgian chocolate truffles made by Laurance Perry at Petit Secret
. Little did I know that her exquisite handmade chocolates are made in her chocolate shop just around the corner from my house.
Laurance in her tiny chocolate studio off the Teton Village Road, with her secret recipe Belgian chocolate ganache.
Laurance and her mother Suzanne craft thousands of exquisitely rich and elegant chocolates into whimsical shapes such as bears, skis, trout, bison, cowboy boots, and custom logos. The dark and milk chocolate truffles are filled with their secret recipe Belgian chocolate ganache. No coconut filling, no surprise yucky gooey cherry, just chocolate ganache. I like that.
The double decker box of truffles is definitely on my Christmas list.
Give the cowboy boots to a Jackson Hole wannnabe. Doesn't everyone want to be in Jackson?
If you are lucky enough to be dining at the Snake River Grill this holiday season, then you may be served a custom SRG chocolate with your coffee.
Laurance and her mother Suzanne, Belgian chocolatiers right here in Jackson.
I could have hung out in the Petit Secret studio all day, helping Laurance temper the chocolate, and watching her mom meticulously organize the truffles, but I had a long list of gourmet foodie stops on my agenda. So I headed down to the town square, to the most Christmasy place I could think of: Lily & Co.
At Lily & Co. I found my favorite English toffee, made locally by Simply Sweet. I have been hooked on their buttery toffee coated in milk chocolate every since I first sampled it at Lily years ago. And making toffee from scratch, well that's just not in my repertoire.
Lily has lots of other great foodie finds: vintage-style aprons, peppermint bark, a few well-chosen cookbooks, and fun kitchen stuff.
Lily & Co. is the place to buy paperwhite bulbs, cool plants for hostess gifts, children's clothes and toys, and of course flowers.
If you really want to get into the spirit of the holidays, and I do mean spirit, check out Vom Foss on the town square. There is so much here for the foodie on your list that it is a bit overwhelming, like walking into Dean & DeLuca in New York City. The selection of olive oils, vinegars, flavored oils, and spices is mind-boggling. Here's a locavore gift: honey from Wyoming, beautifully packaged.
A dash of these extracts would be perfect in fudge, cookies, or cheesecake. This year I think I'll make a mocha glaze for my Christmas morning cinnamon buns.
Then there are the spirits. I had not been into Vom Foss since they obtained their license to sell alcohol. Oh....my....goodness. There's grappas, flavored vodkas, sweet wines and liquors in flavors I have never dreamed of drinking.
When you stop by Vom Foss, be aware that Andrea and Kim will want you to try everything....I sampled 3 grappas (or was it 4?) while I was there!
After my tasting extravaganza at Vom Foss I needed a coffee, since I was determined to skin up the King by the end of the day. I scooted over to the coffee shop that makes my favorite locally roasted beans, Jackson Hole Roasters.
Jackson Hole Roasters is a true coffee house in the European tradition. Locals come for coffee daily, and sometimes stay all day, holding meetings, tapping away at their laptops, and drinking more coffee. Slovakian owners Stefan and Luba understand. They started out as baristas and now have their very own coffee shop right here in Jackson Hole.
Since I am a bit of a freak about fresh coffee, I like to buy my beans at the shop, where they are roasted in-house. Although you can buy Jackson Hole Roasters coffee beans at most grocery stores, and I'm sure they don't sit on the shelf for long.
I wish you could smell these freshly roasted beans. Fuel for the holiday season.
Have you heard that Glory Bowl Soup Company is back and better than ever? Ramsie and Price are back in the kitchen making hearty, healthy homemade soups every week, with delivery or pick-up on Wednesdays.
This year, Glory Bowl Soup Company is offering a soupscription
, which would make an amazing gift for anyone who loves soup and needs a break from slaving over the stove every night (I think I"ll put this on my list too). They will customize your weekly order, with pick-up or delivery, and with or without 460 Bread. Gift certificates are also available on their website
The ultimate gift for the foodie on your list will be a culinary knife, but not just any knife. Go see Corey at New West Knife Works
on the West Bank near the Aspens.
I stopped in to purchase a knife for my brother, who loves to cook. (Hopefully Pete is a bit behind on reading my blog, and won't see this to spoil the surprise). Last summer I sent my other brother a knife for his 50th birthday. Any home cook would be thrilled to recieve one of Corey's knives; not only are they beautiful, they are incredibly well-made.
My other brother's knife, handmade by New West Knife Works.
The blade is all about the steel. Corey uses an alloy with twice as much carbon as my popular Wustoff blades. Carbon gives the knife its durability, sharpenability, and edge-holding capability. It seems that carbon is not just an attribute of ski boots; it can do a lot for your knife too.
Corey gave me a knife-sharpening lesson last summer. We'll check back with him in the spring, as he has lots to teach us all about high altitude gardening.
Corey's "refrigerator" displays all the places his knives have been raved about in print. Wow!
It is easy to be a locavore elf in Jackson Hole. It feels good to support the many talented and passionate people who make up our foodscape. Speaking of which, I have one more tip for you: Cosmic Apple Gardens is having a winter market this Saturday December 17th from 1-3 pm at Owen-Bircher Park in Wilson. Dale will be there to stock you up on beef, pork, and cheese, dog bones and jerky, and even kids' T-shirts and onsies. Email Dale at mailto:email@example.com
if you'd like to get on her list for more Winter Farmer's Markets.
It would be hard to think about local, organic food in Jackson without thinking of Dale and Jed at Cosmic Apple Gardens. They started the whole darn movement.
It was 17 below zero at my house this morning, the kind of cold that makes your breath catch, your nose freeze, and the dogs stay curled up in a pile on the kitchen floor, refusing to relieve themselves outside. The kids' brains were frozen too, until I fortified them with huge mugs of Lala's Chocolate Caliente, the hot chocolate my Ecuadorian host mother taught me to make.
The high country of Ecuador is a lush alpine rain forest, with a temperature in the 60s throughout the year.
Cold days like this always get me thinking about my next adventure, far, far away from 17 below. It's not just me; plotting to leave Jackson Hole is a favorite local indoor past-time. The next best thing to living here is leaving here, and everyone loves to venture out to explore new mountains, oceans, rivers, and cities. And for me, and I suspect for you too, a unique set of customs and food.
A few of the friendly faces I encountered while trekking in the páramo of Ecuador.
Which reminds me that I have not yet shared with you the recipes from my trip to Ecuador. Last summer I found myself childless (!) and husbandless(!!) for one whole month. With my boys in summer camp in Canada, and my husband exploring the waters of the Arctic in a canoe, I headed south to do some climbing, to brush up on my Spanish, and to eat.
Green bananas are used in savory pastries like empanadas verdes.
The city of Quito, with Cotopaxi looming in the distance. At 19,347 foot peak, it is the tallest active volcano in Ecuador.
Perched at 9,350 feet, Quito is encircled by one spectacular volcano after another. On a rare clear day, the summits of five peaks--Chimborazo the tallest at 10,561 feet--can be seen from any high point in the city.
Chimborazo is the tallest peak in Ecuador, and one of the most massive volcanoes in South America.
Initially, I was more impressed by the mountains than the food of Ecuador. But once I moved on from the fixed price "tourista" plates so popular in Quito, I was able to sample the real food of Ecuador, the comida típica, the food of the people of the páramo.
On my way to climb the 15,728 foot volcano Cerro Guagua Pichincha, I stumbled onto market day in Llao, on the outskirts of Quito. With uncharacterstic directness, this woman offered me a bowl of chupe de fava, or fava bean stew, with tiny Andean potatoes in a garlicky broth with a fish paste of clams.
The páramo of Ecuador is the lush alpine highland between the forest line at 9,000 feet and the permanent snow line at 17,000 feet. The indigenous people of the páramo are exceedingly shy and wary of strangers, especially those wielding cameras. Food became a conversation-starter, and these hard-working farmers would briefly shed their shyness when asked about the comida típica, their everyday food.
Beautiful girls wearing the typical bright wool wraps and Panama hats of the highlands, selling gorgeous, freshly dug leeks.
I would love to give you a recipe for the chupe de fava that I wolfed down on my way to climb Guagua, but I don't think I could do it justice. The fava beans were nothing like the ones I had coaxed to grow in my stubborn high altitude garden. These fava beans were fresh and grassy, toothsome and rich. Harvested and shucked that morning for their Saturday Market, these were fava beans as they should be, prepared simply and served with pride by the farmers.
Fava beans at the market in Otovalo.
After 14 days of hiking and climbing in the highlands, including a failed bid for the summit of Cotopaxi, I landed in Cuenca, an historic Spanish colonial city where I planned to attend Spanish language school and stay with a family.
Back in the city, but this time staying with a family, it was nice to enjoy the comforts of home.
Cuenca is a college town and a popular destination for students studying abroad.
Flowers cost just pennies in the market in Ecuador.
Fresh poultry at the Cuenca Market, and the secret to Ecuadorian Chicken Soup (more on that later).
In Ecuador, fruit is more likely to be sold from a wheelbarrow than it is from a supermarket shelf.
Which brings me to Lala and her amazing hot chocolate, the best I've ever had. As a hopeless chocoholic, I was thrilled to learn that my host mother was a chocolatier. After spending the day in school with my Spanish tutor, I would wander through the city's cathedrals and museums, or hike to the highest point and look down on the four rivers that converge in Cuenca. Eventually, I would find myself at Lala's chocolate shop.
Lala in her chocolate shop, Dulces Tentaciones, in Cuenca.
A steaming cup of Lala's chocolate caliente, made with unsweetened cocoa, cinnamon, a touch of locally roasted coffee, and shavings of dark Ecuadorian chocolate, was served with sugar on the side. Dark, rich, and not too sweet, Lala's hot chocolate is the very best.
Lala taught me how to make her hot chocolate, and many other useful things. Like how to take photos of the shy indigenous people without embarrassing yourself or them (don't ask to take a photo, sneak one). And how to carry money in the market (front inside zippered pocket, no purse), and to never use a credit card in the city (cloning is a common practice).
Taking home the chicken on market day.
I hope you make some hot chocolate to ward off these negative digit days, and start plotting your next escape.
For a printable version of the recipe, click on the file below it.
To read more about my adventures in Ecuador, check out the upcoming issue of Dishing, Jackson Hole's new foodie magazine.
Lala's Hot Chocolate
Be sure to use good quality dark chocolate, with 65% to 75% cacao solids.
• 1 liter whole milk
• 5 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
• 3 oz. dark chocolate, grated
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 cup strong coffee (may be omitted)
• Sugar, to taste
1. Place whole milk in a heavy saucepan with a stick of cinnamon, and bring to just below the boiling point.
2. Whisk in the five tablespoons of cocoa, the grated dark chocolate, and the coffee. Combine well and whisk until frothy.
3. Serve in warm mugs with sugar on the side, one teaspoon or more to taste.
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