Recipe: Ginger Molasses Cookies

My brother made some of these ginger molasses cookies over the winter break, and I rather enjoyed them. They have a crisp exterior but a chewy interior, and they sort of resemble a cross between gingerbread and spice cookies.

Later I asked my brother for the recipe and he happily passed it along, mentioning that he originally got the recipe from his friend Kristin. (They’re yummy, Kristin!)

Note: The full recipe makes about 40 cookies, while the halved recipe makes about 20. I’m including both versions since you might not always need forty cookies ;).

Ginger Molasses Cookies—Full Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger (ground ginger from the spice aisle is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup molasses
  • Set aside in a cereal bowl: ¾ cup coarse or granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon kosher salt mixed in with a fork

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt—set aide.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften. Add 2 cups sugar, beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and molasses until combined.

  4. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. If need be, use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour mixture.

  5. Shape dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls. Roll the balls in the sugar & kosher salt that you had set aside. Place dough about 2 ½ inches apart on baking sheets.

  6. Bake at 350° for 12–14 minutes. If you’re baking multiple sheets at a time, swap the sheets halfway through. Bake the cookies until they’re light brown and puffed. After you take them out of the oven, let them cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Ginger Molasses Cookies—Halved Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger (ground ginger from the spice aisle is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ stick butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • Set aside in a cereal bowl: 6 tablespoons coarse or granulated sugar with ½ teaspoon kosher salt mixed in with a fork

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt—set aide.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften. Add 1 cup sugar, beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and molasses until combined.

  4. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. If need be, use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour mixture.

  5. Shape dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls. Roll the balls in the sugar & kosher salt that you had set aside. Place dough about 2 ½ inches apart on baking sheets.

  6. Bake at 350° for 12–14 minutes. If you’re baking multiple sheets at a time, swap the sheets halfway through. Bake the cookies until they’re light brown and puffed. After you take them out of the oven, let them cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Photos from SXSW 2011

Next Week Out Skinny

I’ve been going to SXSW—a music, film, and interactive conference—for a long time. But I look forward to it every year and this coming year (2012) with be the 10th Southby for me.

It’s not lost on me that I’m posting my shots from SXSW 2011 when we’re only about three weeks out from SXSW 2012. I don’t have much of an excuse other than to say that I guess I had a lot going on last year. But they’re posted. Of the 303 shots I took over those six days in March, I’ve posted 19 of them.

Photos from Winterfamilytime 2011

Adrian’s New Chef’s Hat

I visited my parents in December for Winterfamilytime. Pleasantly, the weather was really nice in Charlotte—it hardly felt much like winter some days (not that I minded).

Among the photos I’ve posted, I used the same lighting setup that I had used last year—I used one flash with a Lumiquest LTp Softbox that I attached to the second-floor walkway railing and I used my other flash with a Lumiquest Softbox that I attached to the mantle.

Cross-light often accommodates a fair degree of flexibility when photographing an environment, though for reasons that elude me, it seemed to work a little better for my shots last year than it did this year. (With a cross-light setup, two lights face each other on a diagonal axis to the subject that’s in-between them.) Although it’s somewhat a hunch, what may have happened this time is that I may have had too wide an arc between the subjects and my lights.

On one hand, it’s hard to say where people are going to sit, and on the other hand, there’re only so many places from which one can hang flashes. So as I daydream around how I might set things up next year, I’m pondering the idea of maybe getting a third flash to offer some fill-in light along the axis that may be getting the short end of the stick lighting-wise. (You could think of the lighting setup I’ve been using as similar to a “/” shape and the one I’m considering might look a bit like a lowercase lambda, “λ”.)

Recipe: Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

I had been looking for a good recipe for some time and I finally found a bruschetta recipe that I liked on Allrecipes.

There’re not a lot of fancy ingredients here, but what I especially like about this recipe is that it calls for a thin layer of herb-cheese spread on the bread before one adds the tomato mixture. That rather effectively keeps the bread from becoming soggy, which is great if you may be setting out the bruschetta as hors d’oeuvres that need to last through a cocktail party or the like.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar [Among supermarket brands, I quite like Lucini Gran Riserva Balsamico.]
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced [Apparently a Microplane can work well for this, if you have one.]
  • 7 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 sourdough baguette, cut into ½" thick slices [I like to cut the bread on a bias to create a larger surface area for each slice. Plus it looks nice too.]
  • 1 (4 oz) package semi-soft cheese with garlic and herbs (such as Alouette)
  • (optional) Shredded deli Parmesan, to taste [This is often sold in a small circular tub of about 2" high and around 4" across.]

Directions:

  1. Mince the garlic, chop the basil, and then whisk those together with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a bowl.

  2. Chop the tomatoes and stir those into the mixture with the whisk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You’ll need to add salt and pepper, stir, and repeat the process a couple times—it may take three sets to get the mixture properly seasoned.)

  3. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 20 minutes. (The plastic wrap should be right on top of the tomato mixture to prevent it from drying out.)

  4. Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Spread the bread slices in a single layer on a large baking pan.

  5. Bake in the oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove to cool on a wire rack.

  6. When the bread is cool, spread the semi-soft cheese evenly over each slice. Using a slotted spoon, spoon some of the tomato mixture over each slice. (You may as well leave the bread on the baking trays for this step; that way, if any of the tomato mixture topples over the sides, it’s not a big deal.)

  7. Optional: If desired, sprinkle some shredded deli Parmesan over each slice and, on the broiler setting, slide the bread trays back into the oven, taking them out once the cheese becomes melty.

  8. Depending how hot they are, you may need a spatula to transfer the bruschetta to a serving tray. (Sometimes a wooden cutting board can work nicely for this.) They’re ready to eat immediately.

If desired, the tomato mixture can be made a day ahead of time. In fact, a little extra marinating of the ingredients can make the final product all the more scrumptious. Just be sure to cover the bowl with plastic wrap before placing it in the fridge.

Photos from Thanksgiving 2011

Adrian is Incredulous

I visited my family in Charlotte, North Carolina over Thanksgiving. Pleasantly, my brother Adrian was able to come too— in the past few years, Adrian had been living in Cape Town and hadn’t been able to make it to Thanksgiving.

I really debated which lens to shoot, whether my 50mm f/1.4 or my 17–55 f/2.8 IS. Theoretically, the 50mm could let in heaps more light (and potentially allow for sharper shots), but on the other hand, the image stabilization of my 17‐55 does quite well toward reducing camera shake too.

In the end, I went with my 50mm, although I’m not sure that was my best option. Sure, the 50mm f/1.4 could theoretically let in four times as much light (2 stops) as the 17–55mm f/2.8, but as I was processing the photos later, I came to realize that IS often provided more than two stops of stabilization. So, for example, shooting at f/1.4 at 1/30sec on my 50mm often resulted in blurry shots, but if one takes the equivalent exposure of f/2.8 at 1/6sec, I know my image stabilization would be able to handle at least some of those.

At this point, you might be thinking, “f/1.4 at 1/30sec? That sounds like a ton of light.” And with a more modern camera it probably would be. But with my 4-year-old Canon 40D, I can’t really go above about ISO 400 without running into serious noise issues. So while you 5D Mark II shooters probably don’t give a second thought to shooting at ISO 800 or even ISO 1600, those options are pretty much out of bounds for me.

All told, I did enjoy the freedom—as it were—of not having to worry about zooming my lens to compose a shot (since one can’t with that lens) and the 50mm is also considerably lighter as well. So perhaps I might lean toward my 17–55mm the next time I shoot that type of scene.

Camera fiddly bits aside, I believe we had fourteen people for Thanksgiving (including my family), which is a pretty good number, but not altogether as many people as we had last year. Because some of our relatives were driving in from out of town and we weren’t quite sure if they might run into traffic along the way, we asked guests to come over around 4:30/5:00.

As we’ve done in past years, we cooked our turkey on the grill over the course of several hours—like usual, my dad put the bird on around 2:30 or 3:00. On some of our previous Thanksgivings, we asked guests to come over nearabouts that time, which allowed for a couple hours of chatting and nomming hors d’oeuvres while the bird cooked. With guests coming over a bit later this year, we had slightly less gabbing time before the turkey was ready.

What I came to realize later is that the hour or two of pre-turkey chit-chat is when I would ordinarily take most of the day’s photos. And with this year’s shortened carousing time, maybe I should have been quicker on the draw to get a few more photos in. But mentally I was still on the timeline of previous years and so I kinda dropped the ball on some of my picture taking.

Picture stuff aside, I still had a great Thanksgiving—everyone was super nice, we were all in good spirits, and hardly anyone talked about politics. (Thanksgiving sans political banter? Mon Dieu!) Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, but this was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.