Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Quest for Ginger Chews

My mom used to buy a homemade mix for Ginger Chews -- brownie-like molasses-ginger bar cookies.  When I'd come home for the holidays she'd make some and I would do my best not to eat the entire pan of them.  The lady who made the mixes isn't really doing them any more, so for the past few years I've been pining for them at the holidays.  I'd make molasses cookies or gingerbread, but those didn't really do it for me.  So this year I set out on a quest for Ginger Chews.  If the recipes on three different jars of molasses, one cookie book, and a box of gingerbread mix didn't yield the desired product, I was planning to call and pester the jar-mix maker.

Round 1
I had 1/4 cup of "Grandma's Molasses" (which, come to find out, is rich in iron, potassium, and calcium) so I halved the recipe on the jar, thinking it would be good to warm up with a recipe followed correctly.  I chilled the dough, which extended the start-to-finish time excruciatingly, and it made cookies that were good but too cakey for my goals.  I wanted moist and chewy.  I forced them down anyway.

Round 2 (Kind of classic for me: buy all the stuff but never actually make it.)
I went to the grocery store the next day for ingredients for a cookie recipe from my cookie book, including more molasses (I bought two different brands for two more recipes) and sour cream.  Sounded interesting. 

Round 3
That night a providentially-timed conversation with my kitchen-inclined friend Mandy led me to this cookie recipe which trumped the cookie book.  I figured a perfect 5-star rating after almost 2,000 reviews (not to mention 45,000 people having saved it to their recipe box) was a good sign.  But I wasn't sure if I was ready to experiment with converting a cookie recipe into bars, only to fail and be discouraged.  So Mandy, bless her heart, said she'd be making some and would bring me a sample so I could at least taste how the cookies are supposed to be.  I was emailing with my chef-pal Mary about my need for a baking time & temperature when it occurred to me to change my web search to something like "ginger brownies -chocolate" instead of cookies.  I finally found a couple recipes for molasses bars sans chocolat that agreed on that point (time & temp).

So today after doing my homework (Pilates, putting orders in the mail, feeding OJ) I made a recipe of Big Soft Ginger Cookies, pressed the unchilled dough into a 9" glass pan, sprinkled it with sugar, and baked it for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  The molasses bars recipe had said they'd be finished when a toothpick inserted near the center came out clean.  Well, a paring knife inserted near the center looked like it was cutting into raw dough didn't come out clean so I put it back in for 6 more minutes, not wanting to overbake.  I allowed the pan to cool for a small eternity half an hour and then cut an edge piece to be safe.  It was divine, so I cut a center piece.  It was thankfully baked all the way through and still moist and chewy like a brownie.  I have found the holy grail of ginger-molasses bars, and I might be eating them for dinner instead of the cranberry pork roast in the crock pot.

In other news, it is mid-November and we are having thunderstorms.  Olivia has stopped being nice about eating any food from a spoon, but enjoys feeding herself finger food.  Also, Brown just delivered my new camera.  (!)


running shoes said...

Good perseverance on the Molasses bars!
It sounds yummy and interesting.

I love how "Brown" is not just a color anymore.

Anonymous said...

After having these last night, I cannot wait to make them myself. They were AWESOME!