Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Veggie Might: R.I.P. Betty, Beloved Hand Mixer (Plus, Vegan Ginger Cookies)

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Friends, we are here to celebrate the life of my dear hand mixer, Betty. She was a more than a kitchen appliance; she was an extension of my culinary arm. I will miss her and remember her fondly.

In 1998, BZ, the fifth in a string of seventeen roommates, brought her into my apartment, only to leave her callously (or generously) behind. Perhaps he knew then what I did not: that we were destined for friendship.

Betty and I didn’t understand each other at first. I cooked so rarely that the effort of taking her out of the cabinet, digging around for her attachments, washing and putting her away seemed more taxing than mixing something by hand. I have arms and a fork (or a spoon, or whisk), I would think.

Betty went neglected on the shelf for years. So many times, between roommates six and sixteen, I thought of giving her to the thrift store.

Then I tried to make a quiche with only a whisk. Betty never laughed. She just calmly showed me that no matter how much I whisked, I could never froth egg whites on my own.

Together we have dashed off a matching set of 3 Barbie birthday cakes in no time flat. We have made hundreds of quiches and cookies. She inspired me to carry on, even after the Unfortunate Whole Wheat Cupcake Disaster of ’04.

The last time we baked, I knew the end was near. Betty made a wheezing sound as she labored through cookie dough and the room filled with the slightly acrid smell of burning mechanics. But, as is often the case when the end is near, we pushed the thought far from our minds and went on living.

This weekend, we tried again. My beloved Betty’s last recipe was a half a batch of vegan gingerbread cookies from the consistently excellent Joy of Vegan Baking cookbook. It was the perfect way to say good bye.

As is my habit, I made a few deviations from the original recipe: I substituted shortening for vegan butter, added vanilla where there was none before, and doubled the amount of ginger. It could still use more ginger, if you ask me, but these cookies are fantastic and worthy of Betty’s toil.

During the cream stage it was like she had never been sick. She whisked through the shortening and sugar until it was light and airy. But as I began to add the flour, the wear began to show.

She held on valiantly until the very end. I added the maximum amount of water to make it as easy as possible. As the last of the flour became dough, a puff of smoke rose from her grill, and she was gone.

The cookies that came from Betty’s final effort are so soft and chewy. My oven tends bake hot toward the front, so halfway through the baking time, I turned the pan. Normally a bit forgetful, I took extra care with the timing. I needed this last batch to be perfect. For Betty. And it was.

My darling hand mixer, Betty, you died as you lived, making life easy and delicious.

Vegan Ginger Cookies
Adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking
Makes approximately 3 dozen; 2 cookies per serving

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp powdered egg replacer (like Ener-G)
2/3 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla

1) Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl: flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

2) Cream shortening and sugar (sniff) for 3 to 4 minutes until fluffy. Add molasses, vanilla, and egg replacer and beat for 1 more minute.

3) Gradually add flour mixture and blend (sob), alternating with a little bit of water or soy milk (up to 2 tablespoons) if necessary.

4) Divide dough, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill overnight or for at least 1 hour.

5) When you’re ready to bake, preheat to 350°.

6) With your hands, roll dough into 1” thick rope. Cut into 1 1/2” pieces. Flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass. (This is my preferred, I-don’t-own-a-rolling-pin method.)


6) With a rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/4” thick and cut with cookie cutters of choice.

7) Bake for 10 – 15 minutes. Allow to cool for as long as you can stand it.

8) Eat, remember, and love.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
176 calories, 6g fat, $0.18

3 cups all-purpose flour: 1012.5 calories, 2.7g fat, $.63
1/4 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 tsp baking soda: negligible calories and fat, $.02
4 tsp ground ginger: negligible calories and fat, $.08
1 tsp ground cinnamon: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/4 tsp ground clove: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening: 880 cal, 104g fat, $.62
3/4 cup sugar: 628 calories, 0g fat, $.43
1 1/2 tsp powdered egg replacer: negligible calories and fat, $.02
2/3 cup molasses: 651.3 calories, 0g fat, $1.33
1 tsp vanilla: negligible calories and fat, $1.16
Totals: 3171.8 calories, 106.7g fat, $4.37
Per serving: 176 calories, 6g fat, $.24


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