Unexpected entertaining. It happens to all of us now and then, and it happened to me this week. I belong to a women's investment group that convenes on the first Sunday of the month. When the host for our most recent gathering was called out of town at the last moment, I volunteered to have the meeting at my house.
Club members are naturally interested in learning about stocks and bonds, but we also share an avid interest in food. As a result, there's always a generous spread of nibbles to enjoy while we discuss various stocks and try to pick one that will soar and hit the jackpot. (We're still waiting.) Because we meet between 4 and 6 p.m., the culinary offerings fall into one of two categories: sweet confections served with tea or coffee, or appetizers and wine.
Since it's been bitter cold in our part of the country for much of the winter, I opted for some rich, indulgent desserts. I made a new brownie recipe from a recent issue of a food magazine. The author claimed it was decadently chocolate and took only minutes to mix together. She was right on both counts. And by a stroke of luck, my local supermarket had stocked some incredible Florida strawberries that were juicy, sweet and so ripe they were actually red in the center. I bought several pints to serve with mascarpone whipped cream. I also made a batch of pecans, coated in sweetened egg whites and roasted until crisp and browned.
I was most enthusiastic, however, about the lime ginger cookies I baked. I added limeade concentrate, grated lime peel and powdered ginger to a classic butter-cookie dough, then baked the cookies until golden-brown. The citrus flavor shined through with the ginger a distinctive counterpoint. The cookies would make an excellent garnish to ice creams or sorbets or to a compote of fresh fruit. They are especially good dipped into a cup of tea for a midafternoon treat. My financial pals liked them so much that only a handful of cookies remained at the end of the afternoon.
Lime Ginger Butter Cookies
Makes 30 to 36 cookies
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, divided, plus extra sugar for sprinkling on unbaked cookies
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/4 cup limeade concentrate, defrosted (see note)
Sift together flour, baking powder and ginger and set aside.
Place butter in a mixing bowl and with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter while gradually adding 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until sugar is well dissolved, 3 to 4 minutes, then add lime zest. Blend limeade concentrate with 1 tablespoon water and beat in to incorporate.
Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture. Beat only until well combined, stopping mixer and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula, if necessary. Gather dough into a ball, flatten it slightly and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Chill dough in refrigerator until firm, 60 minutes or overnight.
When ready to roll out dough, arrange one oven rack at lower position and one at center.
Divide dough in half. Sprinkle a work surface with 2 tablespoons sugar and roll half the dough out to a 1/4 -inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a 2-inch cookie cutter and transfer them, using a metal spatula, to two baking sheets, leaving about an inch of space around each cookie. Gather up dough scraps, roll out again and cut out more cookies. Sprinkle each cookie with a generous pinch (about 1 / 16 teaspoon) of sugar. Repeat with remaining dough, sprinkling work surface with 2 more tablespoons of sugar. Place cookie sheets in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before baking.
Bake cookies in preheated 375-degree oven until light golden brown on top and slightly darker around the edges, 12 to 14 minutes. Check after 10 minutes to make sure cookies aren't burning. Reverse the sheets top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes to ensure even cooking. With a metal spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container. (Cookies can be baked 2 days ahead when stored properly.)
Note: Minute Maid frozen limeade concentrate works well.