(Good Will Baking, part 1)
Yes, snow. Actual, stuck to the ground, snow. I went running in it last night and it was beautiful, but now it's just cold and icky and I'm ready for it to go away. Which, thanks to the sunshine this morning, it mostly has, but that doesn't help me when I know it's just going to snow more and more.
As I've mentioned before, there are a lot of things I love about the changing of the season, but one of the most important things to appreciate is that while it's getting colder and colder out there, dropping into the twenties at night, I have a house, with a furnace and many comforters, being kept at a pleasant 68f. Not only that, but I have an entire kitchen full of food to stuff my face with and make me fat so I can't feel the cold anyway.
Not everyone is so lucky as I.
Here in Washtenaw County, we have an organization called Food Gatherer's - a large non-profit organization first founded by Zingerman's Delicatessen back in 1988. Since then, they've become responsible for the county's food bank, and have been able to provide over 12,000 meals a day to those in need - now transporting more than 8 tons of food per day through donations and food drives.
Being entirely non-profit, Food Gatherer's relies heavily on volunteers from the community and donations, both monetary and edible, from individuals and local businesses.
The Holiday season is by far their hardest time - as the temperature drops and the number of people in need of assistance rises, there is a bigger push than ever for volunteers. In the past I've done what I could, taking the time to do food drives (trick-or-treating for canned goods, for instance), and this year would have liked to volunteer for kitchen duty on their busiest day of the year - Thanksgiving. This year, however, I won't be here for Thanksgiving... I'll be in Chicago.
Since I won't be able to volunteer, personally, this season, I thought the least I could do would be to make a donation.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent an entire day making cookies - something like two hundred cookies - and over the following few days sold them to friends in and around Ann Arbor, all proceeds to go to Food Gatherer's. My sincere gratitude to everyone who bought some, because once all was sold and done I had well over a hundred dollars to donate.
My initial plan had been to compile all of these cookie recipes, and more, into a short e-CookBook (once again in promotion of Food Gatherer's, and food banks everywhere), but time has not allowed. Still, I can't help but feel the need to draw attention to the fact that the holidays are not, for everyone so lucky as me, a time of festivity and feasting. Some people have bigger problems than worrying about over-eating this Thanksgiving.
Even if donating your time isn't an option, the handy-dandy interwebs have made it easier than ever to donate a dollar. To donate to Food Gatherers, or to find out about volunteering, visit their website: http://www.foodgatherers.org/
Since I wasn't able to put together my little e-Book this year, I hope to use the progress I've made to do it next year (hence this being 'Part 1'). In the meantime, I'll share with you one of the recipes I plan to include.
Drunken Gingerbread Cookies
(Adapted from America's Test Kitchen's Holiday Cookies 2010 orange gingerbread with rum glaze)
3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 TBSP cinnamon
1 TBSP ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 Cups dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 Cups molasses
12 TBSP (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened slightly (if using salted butter, just leave out the salt)
3 TBSP rum
For the glaze:
2 Cups confectioner's sugar
2-4 TBSP rum
In a food processor, combine brown sugar and all dry ingredients with a few pulses. Add the butter and process until grainy or sandy looking. Add the molasses and rum, and blend until the dough comes together.
Divide the dough in half and roll out to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper - refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight, or chill in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350f.
Once firm, take the dough out of the fridge or freezer and cut out with the cookie cutter of your choice. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving a good inch or so between the cookies. Bake until the middles have just barely set, about 8-11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Cool the cookies on the sheet for 4-5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
While the cookies cool, mix together confectioner's sugar and 2 TBSP of rum, then gradually add up to 2 more TBSP until the icing is a thick but spreadable consistency.
Once the cookies are completely cooled, spread a big dollop of icing on each one - let dry before serving.
(Warning: these cookies pack a bit of a punch. Watch out for the gingerbread men mingling with the spiked eggnog!)