Money Can’t Buy You Happiness But It Can Buy You Ninjas

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So this past weekend I needed to run a few basic errands amidst the Black Friday kooks and managed to haphazardly throw myself together for this excursion (you know, showered and stuff). As I was about to get on the expressway I was confronted with the most gorgeous smell and couldn’t quite figure out where it was coming from.  Slightly sweet, honeyed, smoky and spicy, I sniffed my wrist and realized this lovely stink was coming from me.  You see, I have three seasons of fragrance: tropical white florals, green and white florals and this period somewhere between fall and winter where spices run amuck.  As the seasons have changed, I’ve been sporting some L’Artisan Safran Troublant and have recently revisited the house of Hermès, where Jean-Claude Ellena works his magic as house perfumer. Un Jardin en Méditerranée was becoming a fall staple because nothing reminds me more of the south of France (and I promise – I will get to my fragrant adventures in France shortly).  Over the weekend, I happened to reach for the Ambre Narguilé, which is part of the Hermessence line.  I hadn’t worn it in a couple of years but the mood struck me.  The scent is basically a less-gourmand apple pie in a bottle. It doesn’t smell like fruit – but you get wafts of honey, caramel, cinnamon, and incense on a powdery benzoin base.  It’s sweet without being cloying. I can only wear it on rare occasions,  but I have been enjoying the last few days cloaking myself in it. Did it make me want to bake an apple pie? No. But it did make me want to bake something spicy and despite finding no evidence of ginger in the fragrance notes, I decided I wanted to make gingerbread in a very bad way.

I have a slight gingerbread problem. We have established this already.  I had received some Ninjabread cookie cutters for my birthday.  I hadn’t really baked since I made the nerd cookies and I felt it was time to bake and share my creations.  The cookie cutters came with a recipe inside that I ignored and promptly referred to the gold standard, The Gourmet Cookbook. I made a few tiny adjustments and eschewed the frosting recommendations because I had my own ideas. Although in hindsight I would probably make my mother’s traditional white icing and call these Ginger LaRussos (for those of you who are younger than I am, Danny LaRusso is the character Ralph Macchio played in the Karate Kid). At any rate, smelling good is inspiring. I should shower and scent myself before I deal with the Black Friday freakshows every year.

Lady Sensory’s Killer Ninjabread Cookies  (adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

2/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap or  robust)

2/3 cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)

1 tbsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp baking soda

2 sticks unsalted butter, sliced into tablespoons

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

3 3/4 – 4 cups all-purpose flour

Cooking spray or butter

Black sanding sugar, black icing (I found ready-made Wilton variety at the store), dried cranberries & red hots (otherwise known as cinnamon imperials) for decoration. Or, make your own icing.

Rolling pin & cookie cutters – I had the ninjas, but standard ginger or any cutter is acceptable. Change up the decorations to suit your mood.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two baking sheets (I actually put parchment on mine and spray the parchment lightly).  In a 4-5 qt pan (or fancy pot), heat molasses, brown sugar, spices until boiling, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. The baking soda is going to do this weird thing where it puffs up like a soufflé.  Disregard this phenomenon and keep going, adding butter 2-3 tbsp at a time, allowing each addition to melt in between. Add vanilla and beaten egg and stir until combined. Then add the salt, then flour, reserving about 1/4 cup. Lightly flour a surface and turn the dough onto in and knead for a few seconds to help it come together. If it’s sticky, add a little more flour as you knead. Separate the dough into two parts, wrap one half in wax paper or plastic and set aside (keep at room temp as you work). As a side note, try not to freak out as you make these. I was whipping this up in my fancy pot wondering if I would ever get the caramel off the Le Creuset. Trust the process. The dough comes together nicely in the end.  Roll one half out until about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick. Cut your cookies, place on the sheets and apply sanding sugar, red hots and cranberries if you are using them. I put six cutouts on each tray (about 2 inches in between). They don’t expand too much while cooking. Bake cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the trays at around 6 minutes. Keep an eye on them at the 10 minute mark so they don’t burn. Remove from trays and allow to cool. Repeat steps with remaining dough.  Decorate with frosting and any other cookie accoutrements you desire. Allow to set for a few hours before packing and transporting.  Additionally, you can simply shove your face with any that don’t meet quality control standards while you wait.

Now bring the ninjas to your workplace and enjoy everybody kung-fu fighting over them.

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6 thoughts on “Money Can’t Buy You Happiness But It Can Buy You Ninjas

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