At one point in my bartending career, I got into baking. When I would tell my colleagues about the multitude of lemon bars and sugar cookies my wife and I were scheming to make, I was usually met with puzzled looks. As a bartender, my enthusiasm for baking was probably perceived as out of the ordinary but for me it was a logical next step for my culinary career.
I think baking clicked for me when I started thumbing through recipes and began to notice a lot of overlap between bartending and baking. Both baking and bartending use many of the same ingredients, they use a lot of the same methods and concepts, a lot of language is identical between the two trades… I could go on. One of the biggest similarities I noticed, however, was in flavor. Chili and mango taste great together, hazelnut and heavy cream, berries with almost anything, egg white and citrus.
I was tinkering in the kitchen last week with some gingerbread recipes that I had compiled from various sources. After a little experimenting, I landed on a formula that ticked the boxes for me so to speak. The spice from the ginger paired wonderfully with rich butteriness of the molasses and muscovado sugar. The cookies were rigid enough to snap while soft and chewy enough to literally sink ones teeth into. I thought: “Well done! You’ve made them just right! One for the books! Good effort!”
Sometimes, when you’re making a new cocktail, you may think you’ve made it just right but often there is one other ingredient you can add to push your recipe into the realm of flavor perfection. More often than not, that ingredient is bitters.
The great thing about bitters is that you can use them for anything that you eat or drink. In a lot of ways, bitters closest culinary relative is vanilla extract. Not only do they undergo a similar process of transferring natural flavor into a liquid form but they share the same classification as a non-potable alcohol by the TTB.
In this case, the ingredient that I used to push my cookies into baking perfection was Exorcism Bitters. Adding bitters to my dough, changed the flavor of the cookie in all of the best ways. With the bitters, I can more clearly taste the levels and depth of the ginger. It tastes spicier but never distracts from the harmonious concert of butter and sugar. The aromatics of the bitters sing through, elevating the overall flavor of the cookie. More than anything, these tasty treats put a smile on my face each and every time I bite into one.
This recipe is as delicious as it is easy to make. You don’t have to be afraid of feeding these cookies to the little ones because the alcohol in the bitters will evaporate during the baking process. Be careful, though, these cookies might be such a hit, your friends or relatives might start asking for them in the middle of the summer.
350g all purpose flower
1 level tsp baking soda
2 level tsp ground ginger
175g light muscovado sugar
4 tbls molasses
2 tbls exorcism bitters
1 large egg beaten
Leave the butter out to soften at room temperature.
Mix together in one bowl: the flower, baking soda, ginger, and butter until the texture is consistent throughout the mixture.
Add in the sugar, molasses, bitters and egg. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients have incorporated evenly and thoroughly. It will become a thick and sticky ball of dough.
Refrigerate your dough for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
While the oven is preheating, flatten half the dough to about 5cm and cut out your shapes.
Place your cut outs on a greased baking sheet.
With the remaining dough, repeat the process until all of your dough is cut into shapes and placed on a greased sheet.
As you fill each baking sheet with cutouts, it is helpful to place each filled baking sheet back in the refrigerator to cool for about ten minutes before placing it in the oven.
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, just before the cookies begin to brown up on the edges.
While your cookies are cooling, prepare your royal icing.
Vanilla/Exorcism Royal Icing
250g confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg white
1 tsp Exorcism Bitters
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Green food coloring
Red food coloring
Three icing bags
Combine ingredients in large bowl.
Whisk together with wooden spoon or spatula until sugar has incorporated into the egg white evenly and thoroughly.
Evenly split your royal icing into three smaller bowls.
Mix green food coloring into the first bowl, red food coloring into the second bowl, and leave the last bowl white and uncolored.
Fill each of your three icing bags with each color of icing.
Once your cookies are cooled and your icing bags are filled, decorate your cookies and be sure to have lots of fun!