If you’ve already peeked at the recipe for this one, yes you did read it correctly. If you haven’t, I hope I didn’t just scare you away! I’ll go ahead and say it: there’s soy sauce in this cookie. If the thought of using soy sauce in a cookie recipe–any dessert recipe, at that–terrifies you, you’re in the majority. In first sharing the idea, I got plenty of “ooo that sounds… interesting” remarks. I eventually realized, though, that this was one of the rare occasions during which my stubbornness came in handy…
I had decided before I came home that I was going to begin selling some of my baked goods this fall. Although giving away all of my creations was enjoyable, it became clear that to keep up my hobby I’d either have to discover a passionate baker philanthropist to fund me… or start making some money. So, I created a poll on our ballet Facebook page for my classmates in order to determine what the best selling items would be. Within a few hours, the uncontested winner was quickly revealed: cookies.
To be honest, I hadn’t accumulated much cookie experience. I love a good cookie–as any sane human does–but until then I considered them far from my top choice of sweets to make or eat. I immediately knew I’d need to beef up my repertoire. On the plane headed back to Pittsburgh, I decided to make a list of cookie types. After about what seemed like the 347th flavor, I was realizing that the possibilities for this circular delicacy, the “wheel’ of all baking inventions, were fabulously infinite. The inspiration for this particular cookie came suddenly to me; it was mostly from my love of all things salty-sweet. I grew up eating apple slices sprinkled with salt at my grandma’s house; sea salt dark chocolate bars will forever entice me; here in Pittsburgh maple bacon donuts at Peace Love & Little Donuts are just heavenly; even my favorite Burgatory milkshake is the salted caramel pretzel. I’m just a little obsessed. How this translated into a desire to make soy sauce caramel in a ginger cookie, I’m not exactly sure. But before the plane landed, I’d abandoned all reasonable thoughts (like working on, oh I don’t know, a chocolate chip recipe) and knew I had to try to make this work.
Four batches of each caramel and dough, loads of ugly “cookies,” and multiple topping experiments later, I managed to come out with a product that satisfied my hopes for this wacky dessert. The true test, though, was whether they would be well received by others. Sure, I was thrilled to create an original cookie I loved– but if no one else agreed, it wouldn’t have been too great for that whole “I need to make money’ thing. Thus, I dispersed the rest of the cookies to willing testers (No, I did not disclose the soy sauce detail to everyone). The reaction I received was overwhelmingly positive! I tentatively started to believe that the soy sauce quirk could change from an unfortunate deterrent to a unique secret ingredient.
Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of the savory-sweet mashup, give these a try! They’re soft, gooey, and delicious without being overly sweet. And if the wacky caramel doesn’t suit your fancy, just make the dough plain for a solid ginger molasses cookie. Most importantly, don’t let people’s judgments, their not-so-complimentary compliments, or their doubts get in your way of celebrating your weirdness. Embrace your soy sauce.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4
Salted Ginger Caramel Cookies
- ¾ cup coconut cream
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
- ⅓ cup plus ¼ cup sugar
- 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water mixed and rested in the fridge 15 minutes)
- ¾ cup shortening
- ¼ cup molasses
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 4 Tablespoons orange zest
- 2 Teaspoons ginger
- 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 Teaspoons baking soda
- kosher salt for sprinkling
- Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil. (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 will work as well).
- Combine coconut cream and light corn syrup in small saucepan; cook on medium-low heat, stirring, until warm and smooth, just a few minutes. Take off heat.
- In another small saucepan, stir together sugar and ¼ C. soy sauce just until sugar is completely coated. Place on stove, and turn on burner to medium-high heat.
- Allow mixture to cook without stirring until the bubbles are medium-sized and a dark caramel color throughout, about 5-7 minutes. I prefer to gauge this on look, but the mixture will be about 235° at this point.
- Turn burner down to medium-low, remove from heat, and pour in coconut cream mixture in a few slow additions.
- Place back on medium-low burner and stir until all one color (it will be very dark). Turn heat back up to medium-high.
- Let caramel cook without stirring. After around 5 minutes, the mixture will lose its coconut scent and start to smell like soy sauce again. Cook until it reaches the firm ball stage (244°F-248°F). To test for doneness, carefully take a bit of caramel on a spoon handle and drop it into ice water; the caramel will hold together but be somewhat malleable when squeezed. It should take around 9-13 minutes of cooking to get to this point (The time window is large because the time will depend on both the stove and saucepan you’re using).
- Remove from heat when firm ball stage is reached, and immediately stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
- Pour into prepared pan and let cool and set completely.
- Cut caramel into small squares a little smaller than a penny (scissors work well for this), and store on wax paper in airtight containers. Keeping them in the fridge will help them to be easier to work with for the cookies.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
- In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine shortening, flax egg, molasses, and sugar. Beat on medium-low speed until combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, orange zest, ginger, cinnamon, and baking soda.
- Gradually add dry ingredient mix into bowl with wet ingredients, beating briefly after each addition until combined.
- Continue mixing on medium speed until dough is smooth (this shouldn’t take long).
- Cover and chill bowl of dough in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
- Take dough out, form cookies, and place on prepared baking sheet: scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough, press it flat in your palm, and place a piece of caramel on the bottom, pushing it until just before it’s about to break through the dough into your hand. Fold over the sides of the dough into the center, covering the caramel, and place the pinched, doughy side down on the baking sheet.
- Chill cookie dough on baking sheets in freezer for 5 minutes.
- Bake at 350°F for 8-11 minutes, or until bottom edges of cookies begin to darken. Sometimes the caramel will ooze a bit; just guide the caramel towards the cookie with a spatula once you take them out and then leave them alone.
- Press lightly on tops of cookies that are still rounded with spatula. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
- Let cool on baking sheets or cooling racks (wait five minutes if transferring to cooling racks) before removing; store in sealed containers at room temperature.