High-end fashion and bacon fat.
I couldn’t think of two things more disparate and yet, flipping through the pages of the New York Times a few years ago, there it was: Fashion critic Cathy Horyn‘s paean to a recipe for Swedish ginger cookies made with bacon grease that she has “cherished for years.”
My first reaction: Be still my beating heart, both figuratively and, quite possibly, literally. The cookie seemed like an insane, artery-clogging idea. The first ingredient listed, after all, was “3/4 cup bacon fat, cooled (from 1 1/2 to 2 pounds Oscar Mayer bacon).”
Two pounds of bacon? Cathy was officially my new hero.
Given that my household consumes bacon at every chance possible — there’s usually a package of it in the fridge, at the ready for any comfort-food emergency — I felt duty-bound to give this cookie recipe a whirl. You know, in the spirit of trying to save the earth by finding some use for every byproduct and all that.
I could practically hear the rallying cry in my head: When life gives you bacon fat, make bacon-fat cookies.
So at the first chance, we fried up some bacon and gave this a go. I found that a pound sometimes yields just enough grease for this recipe, as long as you don’t buy the fancy stuff. (I later also learned to avoid apple cider-cured or maple-flavored versions, which tend to lend a plasticky sweetness to the cookies. You really want the deep, smoky flavor of the bacon to come through and stand up to the ginger, cloves and cinnamon.)
I also found that this cookie recipe was incredibly easy — just dump all ingredients in a food processor and turn it on. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Years — and several pounds — later, this cookie remains a regular in my rotation. I’ll pull out the recipe on those increasingly rare Saturdays that we’ll think it’s OK to indulge ourselves and fry up a mound of bacon.
While the cookie still seems fundamentally at odds with the pervasive obsession in New York City with model-thin physiques, when the urge strikes, I’ll pause for a moment and think, “What would Cathy do?”
And out, invariably, the bacon will come.
Cathy Horyn’s Swedish Ginger Cookies
(From “Season’s Drippings,” in the December 4, 2005, edition of the New York Times)
Adapted from Nelle Branson in the “Trinity Episcopal Church Recipe Book,” 1982 edition. Bacon fat can be substituted with 1 1/2 sticks butter; for the authentic cookie, though, bacon fat is the key ingredient. Makes 40 cookies
3/4 cup bacon fat, cooled (from 1 1/2 to 2 pounds Oscar Mayer bacon)
1 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup for dusting the cookies
4 tablespoons dark molasses
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine all ingredients. Spin until dough forms.
3. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours. Drop the dough in 1-tablespoon lumps on a cookie sheet, form into balls, roll in sugar, space 2 inches apart and press flat with fingers.
Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes until dark brown. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to finish cooling.