In this week's Junkyard Tales: All Together Now story, “The Gift of Inventor Mouse,” Ben and Sergeant marvel over some curious tracks in the snow, and eventually discover that they are from Newberry — a small but very gifted mouse — and his clever bottle-cap snow shoes.
When Ben tells Newberry that his “snow shoe” invention needs to be shared with others, the shy mouse wants nothing to do with it. Newberry loves to invent things, but he doesn't like a lot of attention, so Ben finds a way for the little mouse's gift to shine without putting Newberry in the unwanted spotlight.
Science (along with its best buddies technology, engineering, and math) is amazing stuff! It can give you a way to get through the snow without getting your feet wet, and it can also make you chewier, more delicious gingerbread cookies. Here's how.
“Hygroscopic” is a word used to describe a substance that water is attracted to, typically water from the surrounding air. Most types of sugar are hygroscopic, but brown sugar is more hygroscopic than white sugar, and “liquid sugars” (like honey, molasses, agave, and corn syrup) are more hygroscopic than dry sugars.
Good gingerbread cookies typically use a combination of brown sugar and a liquid sugar, and all the molecular-level water those attract is what makes them so deliciously chewy.
The following recipe uses brown sugar and honey to get to that gingerbread sweetness, with an added nod to Newberry the mouse — some “snow track” impressions rolled into the dough pre-baking. Here, I've used a few bits of left over greenery to make our “tracks,” but feel free to experiment with other household items to make your own unique marks.
Ginger “Snow Track” Cookies
(makes about 20 cookies)
5 tablespoons honey
1 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons water with 1 tablespoon lemon juice mixed in
12 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon clove
3 cups flour (plus extra, for dusting)
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
Items for pressing “tracks” such as greenery, well-washed toys, kitchen tools, or even bottle caps
powdered sugar (optional, for dusting)
In a medium saucepan, mix the honey, brown sugar, water, and lemon juice. Bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring frequently. Add the butter, and continue cooking until it's melted. Stir in the spices, then turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely without disturbing it.
When the mixture is cool, mix in the flour and baking soda. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and put it in the fridge to chill for at least two hours and up to overnight.
When you're ready to make the cookies, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Then, roll the dough out onto a well floured cutting board, leaving it just slightly thicker than you'd like your finished cookies to be.
Use your “track items” to make prints all over the top of the dough, rolling over them with a rolling pin a few more times to really press them in.
Remove the items, then use a biscuit cutter or glass to cut circles out of the patterned dough.
Place the cut-out cookies onto a parchment covered bake sheet, and bake for 6-8 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Allow the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet until cool, then dust with the tiniest bit of powdered sugar “snow” to help the tracks really pop out.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred year old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two pre-schoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion--showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun--in her weekly Sparkle Kitchen posts.
When Meryl isn't writing for Sparkle Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth, where she writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day.