I recently went on a cookbook buying binge.
Owning cookbooks is a bit of an obsession. I decided that I was going to one day have an epic collection of cookbooks and they would all be arranged in a magnificent bookcase in my wonderful kitchen.
I remember reading an article about people's obsessions with cookbooks in The New Zealand Herald Canvas magazine (I think). How many of your mums own cookbooks but have made only one or two things from each one? I bet they bought them because they liked the look of the things inside. We buy cookbooks that have nice rustic pictures with beautiful platters and table settings because we crave the lifestyle portrayed by those books. We crave those lazy Sunday mornings where a wonderful rustic inspired brunch is whisked up. We want to lead the lives of those people who are always entertaining friends and family over a late lunch or evening meal with seemingly perfect meals that they just whipped up from this and that.
When we buy cookbooks, we buy the ideal.
Or so the article said.
Sure the best part of cookbooks are the pictures. I tend to dislike cookbooks that don't have a picture for almost every recipe. I like being able to see what my food should look like in the end, afterall we eat with our eyes. We choose what we want to eat based on how it's texture and colour appear.
Cookbooks to me are also a source of knowledge. If you take the time to read the blurbs before each recipe and the page or two written by the author you may or may not find yourself learning something new. A new technique, a new trick, anything. The authors take the time in the first few pages to talk about their inspirations for the book. That may be their childhood, recent travel adventures or friends and family. It is actually an interesting read. Books that are published by cafes tend to have a bit at the front that tells the story of how the now successful cafe or restaurant came to be and hurdles that had to be overcome.
One of the recent purchases I made was Ladies a Plate: Traditional Home Baking
by Alexa Johnston. This book is particularly interesting as each recipe comes with a mini history lesson on how this recipe came to become a New Zealand household classic. Photos of old Women's Institute cookery books and school fundraiser cookbooks are included. The recipes included are the ones that our nanas used to make and the pages provide a real sense of nostalgia.
While I find I might not make the majority of recipes in this book it is still a really good one to have in my collection. What makes this book special is the amount of detail and effort that went into sourcing and researching these recipes.
I love gingernuts. They are so great. Dunked into a nice hot cup of tea they are amazing (except when it crumbles to the bottom of your teacup and in the last gulp of tea you get a mass of soggy crumbs. Gross!).
I tried making ginger nuts from the Edmonds Cookery Book but unfortunately they did not have the same crispness that the good old Griffin's biscuits provide. These ones however are delicious. Before you bake them you roll them in sugar which gives them an excellent crispness. They are nice and spicy and I guess are quite a perfect little treat to make this time of year. The smell of them baking in the oven is amazing! It is one of the best baking smells to have wafting around the house.
These are super easy. The method says to leave the mixture in the fridge for at least and hour to firm up. I went to the gym whilst I was waiting to them to cool and I have to say it did make a huge difference when rolling them. They formed perfect smooth little balls which then flattened into perfect circular biscuits when they came out of the oven.
The recipe said to use treacle but unfortunately I still have not invested in treacle. I used golden syrup instead and they still turned out great.
These make a good homemade substitution for the trusty Griffin's gingernut and are best consumed when still slightly warm! Dad was most stoked with these biscuits. He is always one to complain about how the Griffin's gingernuts hurt his teeth but these ones are much more pleasant on the dental work.
Adapted from Ladies, A Plate
by Alexa Johnston
170g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100g golden syrup (or treacle)
280g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup extra white sugar for rolling
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, egg and golden syrup (or treacle) and beat on high until very fluffy.
Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and spices and mix until combined.
Glad wrap the bowl and place in the fridge to cool and firm for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees on bake.
Make large marble sized balls of dough by rolling well between the palms to make a smooth ball.
Roll each ball in sugar before placing on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Don't flatten them with a fork as they will flatten themselves but make sure they are well spaced.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until they are dark golden in colour and the tops have cracked just be sure not to overcook them.
Transfer to a cooling wire rack to crisp up.
So many noms.