Editor’s note: Welcome back to our week of stories and cookies from The Gourmet Cookie Book. Can you believe it’s day three already? Please say hello to guest contributor Kim Holliday, who baked—hold the presses, make that deep fried—the Galettes de Noël from 1969. You can find the recipe on page 62 of the book. If you’re just joining us for the series, get the lay of the land here. And don’t forget, you can enter up to six times for a chance to win a copy of the book, by leaving a comment on each of the five days’ posts and by joining the Umami Girl facebook page between now and December 31, 2010. Find Day 1 here and Day 2 here. And now, without further ado, take it away, Kim!
I have always considered cooking a bit of an adventure. Sure, sometimes it’s routine, but most times I use it as a chance to explore. So it’s only apropos that when I agreed to make the recipe for my birth year, I discovered it to be nothing short of arduous. A deep-fried dough? Well, here goes…
As I was making the recipe, I was impressed with how naturally it came together as a gorgeous dough. As the Gourmet Cookie Book recipe advised, with just a spoonful of extra milk, voilà! I must admit, I did not have the most precise method for dividing the dough into 15 to 18 balls; mine numbered about ten more than that. But who doesn’t prefer a big batch of cookies to a small one?
Taking on a recipe from my birth year definitely led me to reflect on eras. As a ’69 baby, I was always proud to have at least one foot in the sixties. The year of landing on the moon— talk about explorations. Maybe that’s why that spirit is ingrained in my DNA.
I am curious as to whether my mom ever made this Galettes de Noël recipe, but it’s doubtful, as she was busy with her firstborn and a still freshly minted marriage. Although she never shied away from fried dough in concept: When we were kids, she held an annual neighborhood “doughnut party” just before the start of the school year. What a novelty! We had seemingly hundreds of kids and moms in our rural corner-lot manicured yard, celebrating the end of the summer instead of begrudging it. And better yet, doing so while we were still able to break the rules, having such fun on a weekday. The cookie for my year seems to makes sense for the times as they once were.
While I was waiting the 25 minutes for my dough balls to rest, I decided to do some work in parallel on another recipe that I had been eyeing: the Bourbon Balls for 1980. Heck, I am a bit of a Jack Daniels girl, and who doesn’t love a bourbon ball or two?
I live in a small town in Sonoma County, CA, which once had the honor of receiving a favorable comment on our local taco truck in a Gourmet issue several years ago. But in my hamlet, I could not for the life of me find the chocolate wafers necessary for the dark color and flavor of the Bourbon Balls. With a bit of inventiveness and stubbornness, I ventured instead to use a package of Newman-O’s, the organic version of Oreos, which required scraping away the precious white crème. (What does one do with a pile of that stuff, anyway?) So if you see tiny black flakes in the photographed ’69 cookies, those might be a few crumbs that remained on the counter when I got back to rolling the fried-dough cookies.
Frying the dough was interesting. As an engineer, I of course studied the behavior of the dough in the sizzling hot oil. Not surprisingly, the time span from when the rolled cookie dough was lowered into the hot oil until the moment that it rose (or bounced!) to the surface was inversely proportional to the temperature of the oil. But I did find it interesting that the edge of the dough that last entered the oil going down was the first to break the surface of the oil on the way back up. I would also estimate that something close to 18 percent of the time, the galette pulled a maneuver during surfacing in which it folded over into a taco shape, so this took some well-timed attentiveness to catch. (Not that the unintended shape didn’t provide a handy receptacle for a sweet filling.)
Despite not having a deep fryer, controlling the temperature wasn’t as much of a challenge as my work patterns. Let’s just say that the darker galettes resulted from when I had turned my back on the cooking pot while rolling a new ball, and the lighter ones were a product of my hovering over the pot instead.
Once I flipped and scooped the galettes out, I questioned whether I was putting too much powdered sugar on them. But after my first bite, I knew that no, they were perfect. And oddly enough, the flavors in that first bite brought me swiftly back to memories of my childhood neighborhood, and eating the homemade Italian pizzelles made by our across-the-street local grandma, Mrs. Cappa.
What a delectable treat! I am ecstatic to share them with others, and gladder still that I made them smaller than prescribed, to have more to share.
I unfortunately began this endeavor late on this Saturday, and it is now later than I wanted it to be. Thus, the Bourbon Balls will have to wait. At least my chocolate wafers are prepped. And I suspect letting the raisins spend extra time marinating in Jack Daniels is not the worst idea.
Oh, and for the record—one package of Newman-O’s produces one and three-quarters cup of crushed chocolate wafers (sans white crème, of course).