spicy gingersnap cookies

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

-JRR Tolkien

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There’s little to be said, these days. Not because not much has been going on, since that’s certainly untrue. A final fall semester has come to end, term papers and exams are looming in the coming days, and the underlying sense of festivity is ever-present in the (finally) chilling air.

But, aside from the stresses that come from procrastination and the utmost desire to have – officially – no responsibilities whatsoever (thesis prep notwithstanding), there’s little to be said. Perhaps it’s an odd-feeling of contentedness from knowing that it will all be over within the next 10 days, or merely since I am well and fully burned-out from an excruciatingly busy autumn.

Or, maybe, it’s because instead of thinking about the things I should be doing, my mind wanders to peaceful, rolling hills and cozily cluttered hobbit-holes, more concerned about good-natured faces and deep fruity laughs, the scents soft honey-cakes and strong herbal teas. With that much loveliness swimming about one’s head, it’s hard to worry about trivialities.

And in fact, quite a bit has me looking forward to the coming week. A birthday for a best friend on Tuesday – one for which I have been plotting and scheming for weeks now (though, Noosh, don’t get too excited, because the amount of creative scheming I manage in two weeks is wholly unimpressive) – and then a few days of studying Deutsch while, really, marathoning the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies and eating too-much food (in typical Hobbit fashion) among great company.

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I’ve always been a devoted fan of the fantasy genre – since it’s, you know, escapism at its finest, and I also happen to be one of the nerdiest nerds alive – but I have to admit that JRR Tolkien’s brilliant novels did not have a place on my childhood bookshelf. I found them dull, the prose a bit too dry, the story snail-paced. Then again, I first picked them up at age 11, expecting flashy excitement akin to the latest Harry Potter novel, and consequently allowing my close-mindedness to cloud my judgment of a true masterpiece of literature.

It was a dark, dark time in my youth.

In any case, I revisited The Hobbit just this past August, amidst solitary hours at my internship and a slow summer evening in the quiet of my apartment. And as soon as I finished, I threw on some PJs, made some tea, shut off my phone, and picked it up again. Captivated by the sincerity of the dwarves, the wisdom of the wizard, the ethereality of the elves, the naivety of the protagonist; colorful descriptions of treks through the wood, hurried escapes from foes, the dankness of the caves where the tale of the ring is begot; moments of great profoundness in a story centered on a young man, childlike in his desire for peace and solitude, thrown rather unwittingly into one of the greatest literary adventures to unfold.

It is, truly, lovely.

And of course, having known that my darlings Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch would be appearing in Peter Jackson’s film(s), I’d been mentally preparing myself for the movie release for close to 12 months now. Marked it on my calendar since I first got wind of it as a possibility, and have been looking at it as a beacon of light during the darkest moments of the semester.

Some would say pathetic. John Green would say that those people need to be more enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness. I, of course, concur with John.

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Spicy Gingersnap Cookies
Adapted from NPR
Yields about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup [1 1/2 sticks] butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup of raw sugar (optional)

Method

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 mins. Add the egg and molasses and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Lower the speed and carefully add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Cover top of the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out teaspoons of the chilled dough and roll in your palms to form teaspoon-sized balls. Gently roll the dough in the raw sugar, if using. Drop the rolled dough balls onto the parchment paper, spacing them about 1.5 inches apart. Use a fork to gently flatten the cookies. Bake for 8-10 mins, until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on a wire rack.

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As a celebration to commemorate the end of the semester and a year-long awaited release of The Hobbit (p1), I decided I would bake something suitably Hobbit-esque for the occasion. Having now familiarized myself with the literary world (the movies have been a longtime favorite since their release a decade ago), I believed, in my heart of hearts, that Hobbit philosophy would call for something memorable. And when I came across this spice-filled recipe for gluten-free gingersnap cookies on NPR a few weeks ago, I knew they’d be perfect.

As such, much of our evening yesterday was spent with cherry soup boiling merrily on the stove while the scents of ginger and sounds of a virtual, crackling fireplace filled the apartment (Netflix is, truly, a wonder). The cookies themselves are brilliant; crispy edges for a chewy interior and shockingly spicy, offset gorgeously alongside a saucer of sweetly tart and deeply red mulled, cherry soup. I do like to think that Mr Baggins would have found the entire event wonderfully charming.

The rest of the week looks like more of the same: good food, good drinks, good company. An exam here and there and a paper or two, certainly, but a distinct lack of alarm clocks and some free time to read and cook and sit back to soak it all in will more than make up for it.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.

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