Wednesday, December 2, 2009

play money

Each winter as the holidays near it becomes abundantly clear to that in the wake of the year's promotions and raises I'm left with very little "money." "Money" is the stuff that you can spend on Frye equestrian boots, Marc Jacobs handbags, dinner at The River Cafe, KitchenAid standing mixers and every attachment there is (yes, even the sausage one), haircuts at Frederic Fekkai, gold charms from Helen Ficalora, oh - and holiday presents for your family and friends. The rest of the greenstuff (rent, electric, cable, food, dog walks... baking supplies) doesn't even last long enough to be earn the name "money" before it jumps out of my wallet faster than Edward Cullen with a werewolf on his tail. So I don't count that.

When I first moved to New York City, I made $32,000, had a roommate, $0 debt, didn't know who Rebecca Minkoff was and thought at $5 a pop my beloved Starbucks grande vanilla latte's were luxury. An addict herself (and knowing I couldn't afford it), my Mom enabled my frothy addiction with Starbucks gift cards tucked inside every Hallmark holiday card you can imagine.

Three jobs, a handful of raises, and several pricey handbags later, I live alone, am in debt, and would rather endure swine flu than pay another bill. Ok, ok, I'm hardly walking the line between streets and shelter, but things in this closet-kitchen apartment are just as tight as most Manhattanites I know. It's a financial strain that friends "back home" who are buying wedding gowns, houses, cars, dogs, and onesies can't understand - and I don't blame them. Manhattan living is only justifiable to those of us out of our minds enough to live here.

But, after a year of hearing how those my age are living in various parts of the country (laundry machines! dining room tables! dishwashers!) I've decided the time has come to stop living New York City "beyond my means" as Suze Orman would say.

The first step is admitting I have a problem - and cutting back on the latte's to only what my coveted gift cards can provide. With that comes removing another favorite Starbucks treat - their chewy ginger molasses cookie. It's a rare splurge, but at $2.50/each it's a line item that's been nixed from the new budget.

So, after a few weeks of drip coffee sans-cookie, I found a recipe and had to give it a shot. Ummm... I could walk into my corner Starbucks with a batch of these right now and make a solid $100 under the Starbucks cookie guise - they're THAT GOOD! They've got crunchy outer rims and soft centers just like the 'bucks, and totally satiated my gingery craving. And they're PRETTY! Perfect to box up with a ribbon for spiced holiday gifts.

I won't stop my monthly trips to the mailbox with fingers crossed for the Hallmark logo, but at least I can happily re-create the $2.50 snack in my very own kitchen-closet while firming my financial future.

Molasses Crinkles

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (at room temperature)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses (not robust or black strap)
About 1/3 cup sanding sugar

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and salt in a bowl until combined.

Beat together shortening, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add egg and molasses, beating until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in flour mixture until combined.

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375 F.

Roll 1 heaping teaspoon of dough into a 1-inch ball with wet hands, then dip 1 end of ball in sanding sugar. Make more cookies in the same manner, arranging them, sugared side up, 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes total, then cool on sheets. Transfer to racks to cool completely.


Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home said...

I really enjoyed reading your post. I feel the pain. I've spent the past 10 years justifying $14 cocktails to myself...and I'm still not convinced!

Baking cookies at home ALWAYS helps the situation :)

Becky said...

mmmmm those definitely look good. I am tempted to recreate my own.

Lindsay said...

Try your recipe tonight! Everything looks good so far, but I have to admit I have no idea if my molasses is robust or black strap. It's "Grandma's". Hoping these will rival our local coffee shop's!

Beth said...

Erika - as long as we justify it to ourselves we can enjoy those $15 glasses of wine, right?
Becky - Let me know if you give them a shot, they're delish!
Lindsay - I use Grandma's molasses as well. Black Strap just has a stronger flavor I think, and could overpower the ginger in these cookies.

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