It is said that the sense of smell evokes the most powerful of memories. For me, the aroma of onions sautéing takes me back to lunchtime in my grandparents’ house in Chile, when I remember walking through the front door to that aroma and all that accompanied it: the warmth of the love of family as we gathered around the dining room table, sometimes twenty strong; the anticipation of the delicious flavors of the food about to be devoured; and all the laughter we shared while we ate together.
So I thrive on filling my kitchen with that kind of comfort–aromas that wrap around your skin, change your mood, and lift your spirit. The best ones are the warm smells, like chicken roasting, chocolate chip cookies baking, or soups bubbling away on the stove top, sending out into the air their fragrant bouquet of herbs and spices.
Recently, walking to work and brainstorming in an attempt to invent a new cookie recipe, I thought about trying to roast ginger root the way I roast peeled garlic cloves, which then get pureed and added to pesto, soups, and salad dressings. Roasting garlic changes its flavor. It becomes sweet, loses its lingering and often unpleasant bite, and stored in the refrigerator has unlimited possibilities. I quickened my pace, excited to experiment with the idea, knowing that I had leftover ginger from the day before when I had made my Flavors of the Caribbean soup. I couldn’t wait to get to work, and when I did, I promptly turned on the oven and then took the following steps to make Popacuchu’s latest cookie:
Popacuchu Roasted Ginger White Chocolate Chunk Cookie
½ pound (220 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ pound (220 grams) vegetable shortening (for a crispier cookie use all butter, for a chewy cookie, use the combination of shortening and butter)
2 eggs, room temperature
2 ¼ cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 tablespoons roasted, pureed ginger (see below for instructions)
4 ½ cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda ( ask for bicarbonato at the Feria Libre in the section where dry goods such as beans and grains are sold….you can even buy it by the pound)
500 grams, or a bit more than a pound of roughly chopped white chocolate
Cream together the butter, shortening, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and ginger until you have a fluffy mixture (mix for about a minute). Add the dry ingredients to the wet, the flour, the salt, the baking powder, and the baking soda, all pre-mixed together in a separate bowl. Once you have a cohesive mixture, add in the white chocolate chunks. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour. Place the dough in roughly 2 tablespoon portions onto a cookie sheet. Allow room to spread (place no more than 12 cookies on the sheet). Sprinkle a bit of brown sugar on top of each raw cookie and then place the pan into a pre-heated oven, 177 degrees Celsius and bake for about twelve minutes. Every oven has its quirks, so keep an eye on the cookies after ten minutes or so….
For roasted ginger root:
Chop up an entire package of ginger root into about one inch pieces after you have washed it well (no need to peel it, but cut off anything that looks extremely tough or withered). Place the ginger onto a baking sheet lined with foil, a large enough piece of foil to serve as a base as well as to completely envelop the ginger. Pour a bit of sunflower oil on the pieces, and then wrap the ginger tightly with the foil to protect it from burning. Place the ginger into a pre-heated 185 degree Celsius oven for 30 minutes. Remove the pan and mix the ginger a bit. Put it back into the oven for about 15 more minutes, or until the ginger has turned a rich amber color. Your house will smell delightful! Place the roasted ginger root into the food processor and puree. Use it for the cookies, for a soup recipe, or even for Chinese or Thai cooking. You now have a sweeter, warmer version of raw ginger.
Be daring and experiment with the recipe. Add chopped orange peel, walnuts, shredded coconut, or cinnamon, or all of these wonderful ingredients to make new and creative versions with your signature. Good luck!
Makes approximately 4o -48 cookies.