Softest Molasses Cookies

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Wyatt has a book nook under the stairs. Lately, I've had fantasies of holing up in there. With People magazine, episodes of The Good Wife, and these cookies. Lots of them.

It's been a roller coaster beginning to 2014 in my neighborhood. A beautiful, bright, loving high schooler died in a car accident between her house and the grocery store where she worked. Last week, a single mother opened her door for a teenager in distress and was beaten within an inch of her life. I didn't know them, but lots of folks in my world did, and I can't stop being sad.

Of course I'm not going to stop driving, and I can't do anything about being home alone at night while Yancey's working. I don't feel scared, but I'm on notice--aware of mortality, alert to the very thin line between life and death, between happiness and extreme suffering. A wise teacher said to me lately, "We know we're close to the holy when we bump up against paradox--the both/and."

So this town has been been mourning and I've been praying, but still there have been moments of beauty, grace, deliciousness.

Jordan came up and we went to an Enneagram retreat together at Stillpoint. The best part was the 36 hours afterward when we consulted all our books and analyzed one another. Is that friendship or what?

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Loretta, as usual, had several make-out sessions with our dog Padré, made me lots of love notes, and reminds me every day of all the love in the world that's waiting to be shared.

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My clients asked if they could appreciate me at the end of a retreat I facilitated. They said the kind of things you might hear at a retirement party, the kind of things you might wait your whole life to hear. I soaked it up and I'm still soaking it up.

Today, MLK Day, I feel a tsunami of gratitude for MLK, Ghandi, Dorothy Day, Jesus, Oscar Romero, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and countless others who have turned the paradigm of domination on its head and paid dearly for it. I know I fail mightily some days, but I hope I can honor their prophetic voices, living in love instead of fear.

Our family went for a hike today and we were treated to brilliant sunshine and breathtaking views of Puget Sound at the summit. I'll feast off it for a long time. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the message I heard was, "The universe is good. It's supporting you, supporting life, rooting for you. Breathe it in." So I am.

Molasses Cookies
Good old Bon Appetit comes through again. My aim is to have the cookie jar full during the week since my kids have come to expect a treat in their lunch and I prefer to know what's in the treat and be able to pronounce it. I made a double batch of these (enough for some after-school snacks, too) and enjoyed Wyatt's groans of pleasure. He's fun to cook for. One big difference between the recipe and my method: REFRIGERATE YOUR DOUGH FOR A COUPLE HOURS. This means a little planning ahead, but it's worth it.

Recipe

 

Gingerbread Pear Bundt Cake

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What is up with me and my baked goods lately? So much for kale and brown rice. It's Christmastime.

Like I've said before, I love the "cut and come again" nature of a bundt cake. Leave it sitting on the counter, have a little sliver with tea in the afternoon, have some more with coffee tomorrow morning.

Emily and John are here for the weekend, and I like to spoil them. I was happy there were lots of slivers snuck through the afternoon.

Gingerbread Pear Bundt Cake
There are so many superlatives floating around food blogs these days that I hesitate to add to the mayhem. But this cake is GOOD. You'll wake up in the morning wanting a piece.

For cake:
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tb. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 Tb. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. water
2 Tb. grated fresh ginger
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1/2 c. molasses
2 large Bosc pears, peeled and very thinly sliced

For glaze:
3 Tb. butter
4 tsp. milk
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a bundt pan.

Combine first 8 (dry) ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine next 8 ingredients in a separate bowl (brown sugar, baking soda, water, fresh ginger, white sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, molasses). Add dry ingredients to wet, stirring just to combine, then add sliced pears.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out on a plate. Let cool for an hour before icing.

To prepare glaze, combine butter, brown sugar and milk in a saucepan over low heat until just melted. Take off heat and cool a bit, then add powdered sugar. If it's too thick, thin a tiny bit until it's pourable. Pour over cooled cake.

Portuguese Honey Loaves

Portugese honey loaf
Agh!! I am drowning in lists over here. They look something like this:

  1. Pray.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Take vitamin.
  4. Make honey loaves for Wyatt and Loretta's teachers.
  5. Go to Costco for baking supplies and try not to hate Christmas while I'm there. (Send Yancey instead?)
  6. Finish workshop design for client.
  7. Copy, cut, stamp, and stuff Christmas cards.
  8. Keep deliberating about which cookies to make on Saturday. Throw old lists out, make new ones.
  9. Stay off Facebook.
  10. Finish workshop design for client.
  11. Make a truckload of granola.
  12. FINISH WORKSHOP DESIGN FOR CLIENT!

Clearly, I shouldn't be here, writing about honey loaves. But there they were this morning, all forlorn, needing some attention from the camera.

I wanted to make something for the kids' teachers that was still a treat, but not Sugar Overload. Seems like I usually settle on bread. This one, from my trusty (green) Gourmet cookbook, is particularly Christmasy. Molasses, honey, dried fruit, walnuts, port. It's slightly dry, slices beautifully, and is divine for toast. And makes six small loves!

Wherever you are in your list-making, I hope the lauded peace, joy, and goodwill are sneaking in through the cracks.

Portuguese Honey Loaves
I'm not a big candied fruit fan (unless I make it myself, which I don't have time for due to all my time-wasting on Facebook), so I just subbed more dried fruit for the candied and added the zest from a big orange. The original recipe called for mild molasses, but I like the full-flavored kind better. Use whatever you prefer or have on hand. The recipe calls for both yeast and baking soda--that's because honey and molasses are very acidic, when can affect the leavening. The soda neutralizes the acid.


1 1/2 c. mixed dried fruit (I used apricots, cherries, and cranberries)
finely grated zest of one large orange
1/4 c. port
1 Tb. active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water
1 1/4 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
4 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 c. molasses
1/2 c. honey

Preheat oven to 325 and butter six mini loaf pans (6 x 3 1/4 x 2 inch).

Combine dried fruit and port in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.

Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine flour, salt, soda, spices, and walnuts and set aside.

Beat together butter and sugar in an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 4-6 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add one third of the flour mixture and mix at low speed until combined. Add molasses and mix until incorporated. Add half of remaining flour mixture and mix until combined, then add honey and mix until incorporated. Add yeast mixture and remaining flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in dried fruit mixture.

Divide batter among pans, smoothing tops. Bake until a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in center of loaves comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove loaves from pans and cool completely on rack.