Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday Baking

Twenty years ago was my first year with diabetes, and it was my first Christmas with diabetes. Like most people in their first year of diagnosis, I was finding the holidays very difficult, since I felt as if I couldn't have any of the traditional favorites, including cookies. It was in that frame of mind that I went to a holiday open house/holiday party at a local hospital for people with diabetes. Three things happened: (1) I was able to sample some delicious desserts that were appropriate for people with diabetes and get the recipes for them, (2) I won a copy of The Art of Cooking for the Diabetic, and (3) I bought the ADA's Holiday Cookbook. That helped me to believe that, yes indeed, I could have holiday treats and still manage my diabetes.

So, here we are, once again in the holiday season and on the only decent day this weekend, and I decided to make cookies. Specifically, I made Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies -- a double batch. This recipe was originally published in the November/December 2008 issue of Diabetes Cooking. The ingredients are as follows:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
4 squares (1 oz each) semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons molasses
1 egg
Prepared icing (optional)

It's a fairly standard cut-out cookie recipe. Essentially, you combine the dry ingredients: flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, ginger, baking soda, ground cinnamon, salt, and ground black pepper in a bowl and sift together, resulting in this:

Next, beat the butter, both sugars, and shortening in a large bowl with mixer set on a medium speed until creamy. Add the chocolate and beat again until blended, then add the molasses and egg, beat a third time until this is well blended.

I made several substitutions in this recipe, some more radical than others. For instance, I substituted margarine for the butter (usually not a big deal, except for those who like the true butter flavor). I also substituted margarine for the shortening, since we do not have shortening in the house. I also found out that we did not have any semisweet chocolate squares in the house, so instead of the squares, I used semisweet mini chocolate chips:

FYI: I melt chocolate on the stove, not in the microwave. I've found that melting chocolate in the microwave gives it a funny consistency, and as long as you stir the chocolate consistently while it's melting, I find I like chocolate that's been melted on the stove better.

I also didn't have any molasses and that is a much bigger problem. It's a liquid, which is needed to be able to form the cookies. It has a specific flavor, so you can't just use any old substitute. What I did was substitute brown sugar and water for the molasses. Brown sugar has its color and flavor from (get this) molasses, so it makes sense to use it. It also has the same number of calories and carbohydrates per tablespoon. So, I used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (per batch) and 1 1/2 tablespoons water to create a syrup. I've done this before and it works quite well.

After mixing the dry and wet ingredients together thoroughly, divide the dough in half and make each half into a disc shape. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

When ready, preheat the oven to 350F and roll out 1 of the discs between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4" thickness. Cut into shapes, place on ungreased cookie sheet and then refrigerate once again for at least 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes and then place on rack to cool completely. Decorate with icing if desired.

I found that a double batch made 5 1/4 dozen (63) cookies -- a LOT of cookies! These cookies are neighbor-approved: My friend and neighbor, Pam (who is not diabetic, but whose mother is diabetic), taste tested these cookies this evening and she thought they were quite good, though not as sweet as she usually makes. That's fine, since I do not have as big a sweet tooth as I did before I developed diabetes. Here's the final result:

Very tasty cookies, even without icing! If you're stuck at home because of the weather and want something to do, these cookies are fairly easy to make and I enjoy them. Merry Christmas!

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