To dunk or not to dunk. That is the question.
It's 4 a.m. and I am sipping a cup of hot fresh coffee strong enough to not just destroy the tooth enamel, but to take out the tooth, roots and all. I wish I had something to dunk in it to cut the bitterness.
To make matters worse, to my immediate left, the cover of my "Dessert Bible" displays a stack of fruited cookies you'd swap your birthright for.
Here in the quietness of this early hour, let's take a look at dunking. I don't know what the practice was for you, but I grew up in a family of dunkers and soppers. It was an accepted practice in the South.
After all, biscuitsngravy is one word, isn't it? When the biscuit got too stale to sop, you dunked it. Bean soup was the favorite medium. You developed a sixth sense that told you just how deep and how long to submerge it so it didn't disintegrate in your fingers. Dunking is a fine art you learn with practice.
Then I moved "Up North" and discovered that polite society frowned on dunking, and so I became a closet dunker and sopper. What a happy day for me when Oreos hit the scene and elevated dunking to its rightful place. I would like to nominate the Oreo company for the Nobel Humanitarian Award. Would you like to second it?
So, fellow dunkers, my recipes today are for you.
This is your season. What could be more comforting than a pot of coffee, tea or chocolate and a big plate of cookies, while you watch the Red Wings play or the snow pile up on the deck?
Here's a little toast to you:
"Here's to the possibility
That you'll retain the agility
To take your dunking ability
Into your senility."
My coffee has kicked in now, so I've assembled some special cookie recipes to keep you happy through the holiday season. They all freeze and ship well and I promise they will hold together plunged into a cup of steaming coffee or other drink.
As always, each one brings people and places to mind. This is one of the joys of the holiday traditions -- a free trip down memory lane, with lots of frequent "cryer" miles.
The Lebkuchen goes back to the 1940s. We lived in a bottom duplex with just a kitchen door between us and our landlady, Ann. She made a whole bushel of these in December every year and the sweet spicy smell rolling under that door about drove me wild. She must have sensed my distress (or maybe she saw me trying to poke a towel in the crack), because she always brought us a plate of cookies.
What a dear friend she was. These are better made ahead and you'll want to double the recipe.
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. dark molasses
3 c. all-purpose flour
1&1/4 t. nutmeg
1&1/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. soda
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/2 c. chopped mixed candied fruits and peels
1 slightly beaten egg white
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. lemon zest
A dash of salt
1&1/2 c. powdered sugar
Beat egg; add brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Stir in honey and molasses.
Mix all the dry ingredients together and add to the first mix. Stir well, adding nuts, fruits/peels. Chill several hours or overnight.
On floured surface, roll dough 1/4-inch thick; cut into 3&1/2-by-2-inch rectangles.
Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees about 12 minutes. Cool slightly, remove from pan. While warm, top with glaze. Makes 2 dozen.
Here's another more recent one. It's delicious and screams to be dunked.
Biscotti has many variations and comes from the Italians. The word means "twice baked"; we would say biscuit. Some recipes use no fat at all, I've used them and they make a very hard cookie. I think you'll like this better. It's simple to make.
1&3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. melted butter or oleo (not low-fat)
1 t. orange extract
2 T. orange zest
1 egg white lightly beaten
1/2 c. slivered almonds
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and almonds. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, butter, orange extract and orange zest. Stir into the flour mixture until you have a soft sticky dough. Transfer to a floured surface and work in just enough flour to handle. Form into a smooth ball. Divide in half (I use a serrated knife) and roll each into a 12-inch long log.
Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, flatten the tops slightly so the logs aren't perfectly round, brush with the egg white. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes; should be slightly brown.
Remove from oven and cool on pan for five minutes. Then transfer each log to cutting board and slice diagonally in 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick slices. Lay slices flat on cooking sheet and bake on each side until brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and store in airtight containers. Makes about 2&1/2 doz. slices.
One more, an oldie but a goodie and everyone's favorite. This recipe has been very dependable for me and makes a great ice cream sandwich.
Crackle Top Ginger Cookies
1 c. oleo
1 c. sugar
1 c. light molasses
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
4 c. flour
2 t. ginger
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
Thoroughly cream oleo and sugar, add egg and beat well. Stir in molasses. Whisk dry ingredients together and combine with wet ingredients. Chill 2 to 3 hours.
Roll dough into balls and roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 14 minutes. They dunk better if they are a little crisp, but if you like a soft cookie, don't let them brown too long. Makes about 5 dozen.
Parting shot: If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there!
Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who occasionally writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached via the Record-Eagle at 120 W. Front, Traverse City, MI 49685; or by sending e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org