Turmeric Ginger Kookys

The recipe:

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) diced

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 tablespoon ginger

1 egg

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

I baked them for 8 minutes at 350°F. They seemed too soft and not brown enough, so I baked them an extra 4 minutes. If I were to bake them all over again, though I think 10 might be interesting–to keep the color at its brightest.

After allowing them to cool, I sampled the results and so did my husband. The taste starts sweet but ended bitter. I thought I’d made a Kooky, but it’s really more of an eastern-influenced digestive biscuit.

Uh what-now? you may ask.

In British English, a cookie is a biscuit. And a digestive biscuit is a pragmatic after dinner cookie. It is made with bran, wheat, or other grains. it’s the practical matter of aiding digestion and I would think, preventing indigestion.

Turmeric and ginger are herbs that aid flavor or color, but both are beneficial for your stomach and digestive system. Turmeric can color your yellow rice for paella–it is much cheaper than saffron, and it doesn’t take much to deliver the hue. It can stain plastic and silicone kitchen tools, not to mention your clothes.

Anyway, my recipe had a flavor problem. I wanted to counteract or diminish the bitterness in these Kookys I made, and I had wanted to layer them from the beginning, too. This is the layout:

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To keep with the warm color trend, I chose marmalade for the filling. All the Kookys were placed on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

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I just put a 1/4 dollop in the center of the smaller Kooky, then flipped over on top of the larger Kooky of the same shape. I didn’t spread the marmalade to the edge–once the smaller Kooky is placed on the larger Kooky, the compression causes it to spread more. If I had spread the marmalade to the edge, then placed it on the larger Kooky, the marmalade would seep beyond the dimensions of the smaller Kooky; it would look oozy and sloppy.

Once I had put marmalade on all the Kookys I could, I put them in the fridge for at least 3 hours so the marmalade would re-solidify and be less runny.

I sampled one and the bitterness seems to be less present. So all the Kookys that weren’t part of a pair were topped with marmalade as well.

Spice Blends, Some Exotic Aisle: Chinese Five Spice

Chinese Five Spice, like Garam Masala and other blends I’ve covered in this series, can have varying ingredients.

The ironic thing about five spice powder is, it does not have to contain five spices, it could contain more. The “five” actually relates to the elements, or phases, in Wu Xing*, or Chinese zodiac. These are earth, fire, metal, water, and wood.   In Chinese cooking, there are also five flavors–sweet, salty, sour, pungent, and bitter. This blend has it all.

Five spice powder

Fennel seeds (red bowl), cloves (orange bowl), anise seed (yellow bowl), saigon cinnamon (green bowl), ginger (blue bowl). Some varieties include Szechuan (Sichuan) pepper (not pictured).

I think the most aromatic spices in this blend are the subtle licorice scent of anise and fennel and the sweet warmth of the cinnamon (Saigon or Vietnamese smells more aromatic to me than regular cinnamon in the US).

Used In: Roasted chicken, duck, boar and pork dishes in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Malaysia. Beancurd pork and shrimp dumplings (ngo hiang).

Other uses: Spice cake or cookies–especially autumn and winter when warming, hearth-themed foods are the focus; apple and other fruit pies; pumpkin bread; baked or mashed sweet potatoes; beef or lamb stew; marinades and dry rubs; breading for fried meat.

*=The Western world could easily think the Greek four elements and the Chinese five elements are the same thing, or at least pretty close. This is not true.

The Greek four elements–earth, air, fire, water are about material composition. Chinese elements, more aptly called ‘phases’ are agents of change. They are consecutive and dependent on each other in the balance, destructive out of sequence or out of balance. Wood nurtures fire but separates earth,  fire’s ashes make earth but fire melts metal, earth creates metal but parts water, metal carries water but cuts wood, water nurtures wood but kills fire.

Wu Xing shows up throughout Chinese culture, including traditional medicine, feng shui, and the zodiac. If you’ve ever curiously read your horoscope at Chinese new year, each of the twelve animals has five phases, so it takes 60 years to complete a cycle.

This blog discusses the recurring “fives” in Asian culture better than I could.

If you have other ideas for this spice blend, please share in the comments below.

Tip My Toque: Old Bay Seasoning

Here on the coast of South Carolina, it’s the time of year when the shrimp boats are blessed by local ministers. Blessings and prayers are made for a safe season and a bountiful catch. There are also many seafood festivals along the coastline for shrimp and blue crab. [Oyster season is traditionally over until next fall.]

Since it is seafood festival season, I was curious about the story behind Old Bay seasoning.

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Old Bay hails from the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. It was created by Gustav Brunn, a German immigrant, in the early 1940s. It contains allspice, bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, celery seed, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, paprika, red pepper, and salt. (In recent years, a lower salt variety has been introduced to the product line.)

Old Bay was named for the Old Bay Line, a steamship that made regular trips between Baltimore and Norfolk in the early 20th century.

It’s trademark packaging is a mustard yellow canister or label, with 2 perpendicular royal blue bands on the left side. In the horizontal blue bar, OLD BAY is written in bold white capital letters. Seventy years later, the packaging has a unmistakable look and a vintage quality. Old Bay had consistent branding, long before everyone was talking about the importance of “branding”. And it continues today.

In the Chesapeake area, Old Bay is offered as a condiment in movie theaters, at delis, sandwich franchises, and many restaurants. In other areas, Old Bay is available at any establishment serving fish and shellfish.

While it was designed for seafood, other uses include seasoning popcorn, cooked eggs, potato chips, tater tots, french fries, corn on the cob, and salads.