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Tina Lai

The Global Gourmet - Tina Lai

In Barbara Kingsolver’s Novel, “The Poisonwood Bibles” a preacher and his family head out to the heart of darkness of the Belgian Congo in the 1950’s to spread the word of God .

His wife Orleanna, thinking of her four daughter age 5-15 packs up along with all their belongings, 4 boxes of Betty Crocker’s cake mix for each of their birthday. Consequently, her foresight offers the little redemption for her family who face the daily struggles of keeping together in a place devoid of creature comforts as well as electricity,plumbing and sometimes food.

Although perhaps, few of us had to endure such hardships, like many families who are living abroad, we have all experienced that gnarling sensation of missing something from home. For my daughter it is a package of Kraft macaroni and cheese which still gets stashed in the suitcase , whenever we visit outside the U.S.

As for me, what I really miss, is the smells of baking for the holiday with friends. It has been a tradition with my women friends to drop all our job titles, our expensive manicures and city slicker clothes and head out to the country for a baking retreat.

We bring magazine clippings of our best recipes, hand-written formulas from old journals and of course, the Bible for cookie couture: Martha Stewart’s Holiday issues.

Working together with butter and flour, for hours we keep the men at bay with girlish chatter and laughter. The end result are piles of magnificent, heavenly scented cookies that are shared among us all for taking home and gifts.

Although baking involves certain technical dexterity and the right ingredients, it’s worth keeping in mind to pick up that special can of baking powder, to recreate the sense of home away from home. It has been polled that the smell of baking gives the most number of people, a sense of happiness.

Create your own baking party with your family and friends. What could be better during the holidays for Global Giving than a box of homemade cookies?

Check out the Global Gourmet’s photographs of Baking in the Catskills:

Here is the ultimate Gingerbread recipe for your files:

Basic Gingerbread Cookies

Makes about 16 large cookies

6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses

1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture; combine on low speed. Divide dough in thirds; wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour.

3. Heat oven to 350°. On a floured work surface, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets; refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes. Bake until crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cookies cool on wire racks, then decorate as desired.

Cooking Tip: Molasses Substitute.
For 1 cup, use 1 cup honey; or 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar.

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