[Christmas in Palm Springs; 2013]
Yesterday my son-in-law dropped off some cardamon bread he’d made over the weekend; it tasted like home, a “home” I never actually had or known! But some flavors, some smells, some vibes are like that, aren’t they? In some mysterious, deep, wordless way, they just feel right! They somehow remind us of something always there, present, and abiding. Like the first time I experienced a Quaker meeting: I knew I’d come home.
There are ways we can manufacture that deliciousness; we can create traditions that somehow incorporate key elements of that Just Feels Right sense. Like the gingerbread cookies I’ve been making at Christmas for close to 50 years. My four daughters and their children have grown up with these cookies. The smell of them baking in the oven (or putting a couple out on Christmas Eve for Santa) equals home.
I’m willing to bet that no one in my family, living in a time when most people consider soft and chewy more desirable than crunchy/best when dipped into milk or hot chocolate, really loves these cookies. (My “Moist Dark Gingerbread” gets way more raves.) But once upon a time they certainly enjoyed making them. Getting flour all over themselves and the kitchen floor. Using their favorite cookie cutters. ( The moose? Or pig? How ’bout the traditional Christmas chicken?) Inviting friends over to help. Decorating them, too. (For years I insisted on only natural ingredients—raisins, nuts, cranberries, etc.—but have lately gone over to The Dark Side and now use red and green sprinkles.) And since the dough is the consistency of clay, they especially loved, when they were teenagers, creating risqué objets d’art. (You can imagine!)
Yesterday I posted a picture on Facebook of my granddaughter rolling out that sturdy, pliable dough and received several requests for the recipe. But I’m actually reluctant to pass it along for 2 reasons: It’s not soft and chewy. Your family and friends might be disappointed. And it requires—wait for it—8 or 9 cups of flour! (This year, way too busy, I halved the recipe. And still have plenty) My recipe requires hours of baking! Who has time?
Here’s my advice: Do what I did half a century ago. Find a recipe that speaks to you. And feels like home. Better yet, do what I did two minutes ago: google Best Gingerbread Cookies Ever.
Here’s one that sounds really good. And guess what! It’s soft and chewy!