I don’t know about you, but I cannot pass up a cookie. The problem with baking cookies when there’s only two people in the household is that you eat all of them. This is why I wait for my book club meetings to bake some: I get some cookies and then other people eat the rest. Then there’s my cookie challenge: how can I connect the cookie to an idea or theme in the book discussed? Sometimes it’s easy and the book will mention a food item and that inspires me. For example, in The Women, a novel about Frank Lloyd Wright, it mentioned that he loved to eat oatmeal and apples, so I made Oatmeal Apple Scones. However, the other novel about FLW, Loving Frank, wasn’t so helpful. Since he made Prairie houses, on a whim I googled prairie cake to see if there was such a thing, and it exists. It’s a great bundt cake with 7-Up in it. Granted, neither of things are cookies, but sometimes you just got to go with what exists and looks best.
Last October the Artful Readers book club read Miles Harvey’s Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America about Jaques Le Moyne de Morgues and a group of French Protestants who tried to settle Florida in 1564. Le Moyne tagged along in a Lewis and Clark role of recording and painting all of the flora and fauna and Native American life he encountered. Unlike the Spanish settlers who came for wealth or the English settlers who strived to create a beacon on a hill and tame the wilderness, the French were actually interested in learning about this unexplored continent, wilderness and all. It provides a fascinating look at America prior to the Puritans landing on Plymouth Rock and claiming the colonizing glory; it also mentioned a fruit: the pineapple. This delectable fruit was one of the first things the French settlers tried and it was love at first bite. Using this little tidbit, I set off on my own voyage to find my cookie.
The first cookbook I explored, The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, provided the motherlode: an easy and economical pineapple cookie. I was a little skeptical, but as the aroma of pineapple and ginger permeated my kitchen as they baked, my worries were assuaged. I glazed them and waited for them to be just cool enough before popping one in my mouth. They look like they might have the texture of a hockey puck, but they are so light and moist. They are a perfect cookie: slightly sweet and satisfying. I took them to the book club meeting and everyone devoured them. Then I made some to take down to my parents; my dad kept opening the bag and eating “just one more”. On Monday my Eagle Readers book club at school is having an end of the year potluck, and I have been put in charge of the cookies. One of my Eagle Readers has the horrible fate of being allergic to chocolate. For our last potluck he begged me to puh-lease make him some white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. I agreed and bought macadamia nuts, which are really expensive ($9.00! and the whole amount went into the cookies) and white chocolate chips, which is the biggest misnomer ever. Their name implies that you are going to get some gooey chocolate goodness, but they’re vanilla. Who wants vanilla? So I brought them to our potluck, and he arrived to state that he couldn’t stay, barely noticed the cookies, finally took one, and left. Because the other members are as crazy about white chocolate as I am, I had leftovers. He has again requested those cookies, and I put the kibosh on that idea. We’re having pineapple cookies instead.
Here’s the recipe:
Preheat oven to 350 and grease some cookie sheets (or use parchment paper or a Silpat).
Cream together 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening with 1 cup brown sugar.
Add one egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.
Beat in 1 cup canned crushed pineapple, undrained.
Stir and toss together 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon powdered ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add to pineapple mixture and beat until thoroughly blended.
Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pistachios or other nut (I used walnuts instead, it’s what I had handy).
Drop dough by generous rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, placing them about 2 inches apart. Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush hot cookies with Basic Clear Glaze, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
I found that they are better if you use an actual measuring teaspoon to do this.
Basic Clear Glaze:
Combine 1 cup confectioner’s sugar with 2 tablespoons of water until all of the lumps are dissolved. Use a small bowl.
Bon Appetit! And a good book to go with Painter in a Savage Land is Tony Horwitz’s book A Voyage Long and Strange. It’s part travelogue and part history as he researches the exploration of the Americas pre-Puritans. I will tell you those Spaniards were one crazy bunch.