The weather forecast has been threatening flurries for several days now, and each day I’ve been disappointed. Now, I won’t be disappointed come March, but the first few flurries to hit the ground always make me smile. They remind me of warm mittens, hot chocolate, cold flakes hitting my tongue and melting. Snowmen, snowball fights, and laughter. Walking down the road to the ice all frozen hard in the gravel pit, where we’d skate, carefully avoiding the rocks sticking up through the ice. The smell of the air, crisp and clear and fresh. So all in all, it makes me feel like a kid again. It makes me smile and remember the joy and discoveries winter would bring each year. How much snow would we get? How many hours or days would the power go out for after a big storm? How far could I snowshoe into the woods without getting scared I was too far in to find my way back? And as always, lying back in the snow after making a snow angel, looking up into the sky and watching the clouds roll along. I think as adults, we have forgotten how to enjoy these moments. How to even allow ourselves to have them. We are so busy shoveling the driveway, and getting places on icy roads and making sure the house is warm that those small, precious moments are lost to us. I am always grateful that the first snow brings all of that back to me. Even if just for a few minutes. I’ll grumble about bringing in the wood and shoveling out the driveway in January. And lament all the fall outdoor chores I didn’t get done next week. But today, I’ll just give myself a few minutes to catch a few flakes on my hand and watch them melt so quickly it’s hard to believe they were even there. And I’ll remember building forts with my brother and us trudging up the sides of the gravel pit with our crazy carpets, plotting our course down without hitting anything large and sharp. Then walking ten minutes home to put soggy mittens next to the wood stove and wrapping cold hands around warm mugs, with the skin tingling from the quick transition from cold to hot.
Meanwhile, it’s another day of baking and jam making for this weekend’s Christmas farmers market. A winter staple in our house are chocolate gingerbread men. The recipe is from the book “The Good Cookie” by Tish Boyle. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s fabulous. Lots of info, lots of different types of cookies, really well written and every recipe I’ve ever made from it has turned out amazingly well. If you like to bake, this should be on your cookbook shelf.
Chocolate Gingerbread Men
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup nonalkalized cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (Tish recommends Muscovado)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp unsulphured molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars at medium speed until light in texture and colour, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg.
3. In a small bowl, stir together the hot water, molasses and baking soda, until the baking soda is dissolved. At low speed, gradually add the baking soda mixture to the butter mixture. Increase mixer speed to medium and mix until blended. Then on low speed, add in the flour blend in several additions, until just combined. Scrape dough onto a work surface, shape in a disk, wrap and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours, max three days.
4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two sheets, use parchment paper or I use baking stones (already seasoned! No more greasing and nothing ever burns! )
5. Divide the dough into quarters. Put the rest in the fridge while you work one quarter at a time. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until dough is about 1/8 of an inch thick. Grab your gingerbread man (or woman) cutter and cut out as many little chocolately ginger people as you can and carefully transfer them to your baking sheet. Bake the cookies for about 8-10 minutes per sheet and let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes before you transfer them to a rack to finish cooling. Decorate as you will. Or not. They are pretty tasty warm from the oven.