I wanted to post some photos of my father on this Father’s Day. My mother wouldn’t have been the great cook she was without him. Even when, at the end of his life he couldn’t eat, he looked out at the spread that Thanksgiving day and proclaimed to all the family present, “Your mother is such a wonderful cook!” We had no idea he was so sick. He died two months later.
He was born in South Africa, but grew up in San Antonio and South Houston. He shared a passion for mechanics with his father. He didn’t do so well academically. His worst subject was English. I believe he could hardly read his entire life. His dyslexia must have been off the scale.
He was brilliant. He could put anything together by looking at it. He had no patience until he was an old man. He loved a good practical joke. When he was young, he and some friends took a preacher’s car and pushed it off a cliff. It took a long time for the preacher to find his car. My father and his friends winched it out of the gully and fixed it up good as new. My father was in the Navy during WWII, but saw no action. He helped repair and build ships in Chicago and San Diego. He didn’t like to talk about his service. My mother said it was because he felt ashamed that he didn’t get shipped to the front lines, though the war was mostly at an end by the time he was in.
He loved my mother most dearly for all of their sixty years together. She loved to cook for him.This ginger snap recipe is one my mother made often. They are easy to whip together. Mind you, the recipe is down to the bare bones, so I will explain some things I learned, because I made them several times to get them just right.
The ingredients are easy:
When my mother says shortening she means “Crisco”. Do not substitute. This is a cardinal rule with Crisco. That’s always the case, but in this instance, here’s what happened to me.
I first made the recipe with coconut oil because I had no Crisco. The cookies tasted fine but had a strange consistency – like powder when you bit into them. I guess that means, they weren’t that good. I took them to school with me though, and someone ate them. Bless them.
The next effort to making them, I used butter, because I still had no Crisco. They were delicious, but a bit like hard-tack to bite into. So again, for this recipe…use Crisco.
Finally, I used Crisco. Perfect consistency. A bit chewy on the inside, and crisp on the outside.
The ingredients are precise – don’t use two eggs, only one. When it says twelve minutes at 375 degrees F. it means just that.
Also, don’t leave the dough in the fridge overnight, and then think it will be easy to pull out of the bowl. No. The dough when chilled is hard and non pliable, like dried paste. Leave in the fridge only 15 minutes. I don’t have to tell you the lengths I went to trying to get that first batch out of the bowl after leaving in the fridge overnight. I just had no time the evening before to bake them.
So the next time I rolled the dough into a long tube shape. Much easier to slice and lay out on the cooking sheet. If the dough is cool, it’s very thick. Trying to scoop and roll them into a ball with a spoon is a bit like trying to spoon out very frozen ice cream, needs to warm a bit first. Just roll into a roll and wrap in wax paper or a parchment sheet. If you don’t cool in the fridge for fifteen minutes the dough is very sticky and uncooperative. Cooled, it is very easy to slice and lay out on the pan.
When I take cookies out of the oven, I always flip them over, because the heat from the pan continues to brown them on the bottom. This insures an even color all around.
The end result was really good. These are cookies that are guaranteed to bring back good memories for you. For me, the ginger and molasses in this recipe reminds me of so many great holidays with my parents. I think you can see some empty spots on the pan of cookies.
Note: Everything is so easy to buy at the grocery. Cooking from scratch is going to a lot of trouble, going an extra step or two. So many times we are busy and feel pressed for time. Indeed, time is a precious commodity. Even getting a decent home-cooked meal ready every evening can feel like a burden. Just keep in mind, the reason we would cook a cookie recipe is to share our good memories with our loved ones. I remember when my son was very small he asked me how I made whatever it was we were eating that evening and I told him that I had made the recipe from scratch. He looked at me with that adorable four year-old matter-of-fact way he had and said, “I don’t know where you get scratch, but I hope you can find it and make it again.”