West Indies banana-ginger cookies

Last night I baked the last of the drop cookies offered in Sharon Tyler Herbst’s The Joy of Cookies. At some point in 2012, and without fanfare, I also prepared the last of the bar cookies. What lies ahead? The remainder of three other sections in which I have dipped my toe, but not thoroughly explored: “Hand-formed, pressed and refrigerated,” “chocolate and chocolate chip,” and “holiday cookies.” No doubt bar and drop cookies lurk here and there in those three sections, however I’ve a sinking feeling that most of what lies ahead will tend toward fussiness.

These were not fussy. A purée of bananas mixed with butter, vanilla, sugar and eggs. Flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Diced crystallized ginger and a handful of raisins. In Ms. Herbst’s words they are “pillowy soft cookies” with a bit of “pizzazz.” And, as one who likes the occasional banana but dislikes banana-flavored things? They are very good. The spices, and that ginger — wow! — make them some kind of special.

Of course, I ignored her instruction to use very ripe bananas. She insists that there is no banana flavor when baking with greenish bananas. Confession: I like the occasional banana, but only if it’s slightly green with no brown spots at all, and then it must be sliced on the diagonal. I am very picky about this fruit that grows on really tall stems of an herbaceous plant which is not a tree, and my inner locavore feels a little guilty about enjoying anything that is grown only in the humid tropics of equatorial regions, which, last I checked, is not within 100 miles of where I’m living. Then there’s the whole fair trade issue. Sigh. Bananas are such a rare and guilty pleasure for me. I needed two for this recipe and bought three, and will probably give Kate the third as I’m quite sure it went from the narrow window in which I’d find it edible to too-ripe-for-me! in the middle of the night.

So. Why did Ms. Herbst tack West Indies onto the name of these cookies? The little online research I did this morning tells me that bananas have been enjoyed in the Malaysian part of the world for millennia. They are probably one of the oldest cultivated plants, if not the oldest, and they’ve traveled over the centuries until they ring the globe, grown in every humid, tropical, equatorial place possible. Ms. Herbst, along with Spanish tradition, credits Friar Tomás de Berlanga with planting the first banana plant (she says tree — oops!) in the West Indies in 1516, where they have flourished ever since. She doesn’t credit the West Indies with this recipe, but perhaps it’s because they are the most proximate source of bananas for the US, where we seem to like to bake cookies.

Finally, during this second year of working our way through this cookie cookbook, its binding cracked. Spectacularly, from stem to stern. It now has a fault line dividing what I’ve finished from what I’ve yet to accomplish. Soldiering on with this frivolous and happy task in 2013! Happy New Year!

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About pattiblaine

Raised under the name of Snyder in the upstate NY town of Vestal, I've worked as a typesetter, a fast food salad bar tender, an art reviewer, a waitress, a part-time nanny, and a very-bad-with-phones temp. Once upon a time I was all-but-thesis toward a Masters in Art History. Now I'm just a mom with a lot of fiber squirreled away throughout the house. We call it insulation. In 2013 I completed a life-long learning program at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and am a postulant toward the diaconate in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY. In addition to coordinating volunteers for the soup kitchen, I volunteer as a tutor at a deeply impoverished city elementary school, and am a docent at the Memorial Art Gallery.
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6 Responses to West Indies banana-ginger cookies

  1. D'Alta says:

    Ah, bananas…coffee beans, tea, oranges, fresh baby lettuce in winter… I have tried to eat foods in season, strawberries in June, blueberries in July, corn in August…but my gut now dictates what I can and cannot eat-seasons and distance be damned… I still try to only eat US grown produce but sometimes when watermelon or cantaloupe call my name in November or December, I cry, “Uncle!” Too much I dare not eat…

    • pattiblaine says:

      What? Coffee doesn’t grow close to home? Not even spiritually? Sigh. I never said I was a locavore. Just haunted by one when shopping for food. Hoping that is enough for now anyway.

  2. dawnk777 says:

    Yeah, we like our bananas, too. Not all bananas are eaten out-of-hand. Some are sliced and frozen for smoothies and some are saved for banana bread. They are expensive, so for that reason we often don’t buy them. It’s rare that I get to just eat one! These sound good. I love ginger if just about anything!

    How many recipes are in this book? You’ve only done a small portion of them. You are very ambitious if you mean to try all the recipes! I wish we could come and help you eat them!

    • dawnk777 says:

      Oh yeah. I like your header image of the snow-capped coneflowers. I love when the snow does that in my yard, too! I look forward to lots of coneflowers next summer, though. My SIL has been more than generous with her stock, so I got some of mine for free!

      • pattiblaine says:

        Thank you, Dawn. I do enjoy the coneflowers almost year-round. And so do the birds!

        I think there are a couple hundred recipes in the book, including the variations. Time and money constraints keep my pace slow, but I do intend to try every one of them — including some of the variations — before I call it quits! We share them frequently, too, with the knitting guild, church events, and with friends. We’d all be enormous of we kept them to ourselves!

  3. dawnk777 says:

    I’m sure all your friends appreciate the treats, too! That’s a lot of cookies!

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