Yes, that is bacon behind my cookies. Why? Because--as I have just recently learned--behind every truly excellent ginger cookie, there is bacon fat.
The New York Times's fashion critic, of all people, supplied this recipe. The key, she says, is to fry 1 1/2 pounds of cheap bacon and use the resulting milky bacon fat as shortening. Needless to say, I was fascinated. Being a modern cook, I don't save fat, but I know that my hypothetical praire ancestors did. I also know that they cooked with molasses a lot. So I agree with Cathy Horyn's conjecture that this recipe was probably the result of improvisation in a country kitchen. Ever wonder what 3/4 of a cup a bacon fat would look like? Well, here it is:
The article containing this recipe was headed "Season's Drippings." That's all you need to know.
Bacon-Fat Ginger Cookies
(adapted from Cathy Horyn's adaption from Nelle Branson's Trinity Episcopal Church Recipe Book)
Mix together in a large bowl:
3/4 cup bacon fat, cooled (from 1 1/2 pounds of cheap bacon)
1 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons molasses
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I used fleur de sel, because that's what I had around)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Chill dough for a few hours in the fridge. Make youself a BLT.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I used greased and floured cookie trays, but Horyn says to use parchment. Form the satisfyingly pliable dough into 1 Tablespoon balls, roll in sugar, and place on the cookie sheet far apart (these babies really spread out). I sprinkled a little extra sugar on the tops of mine as I flattened them with the tines of a fork. Bake for 10 minutes, until dark and ginger snappy. Cool briefly, and then enjoy bacon as you've never tasted it before.
Tomorrow: Aunt Ester's Sugar Cookies (really)