Do you ever have a lot of things just sort of serendipitously collide at the right time?
I did not have a lot of these things happen but for name-related reasons I was absurdly pleased to receive wine from Modern House Wines to try. One of them was a GIANT bottle called, quite cheekily, “Go Big”. The name pleased me because I got this wine right before the next installment of Pie Party I was throwing with my friends Alice and Joel: Jurassic Pie.
Dinosaurs are big. So was this wine. It was meant to be! More about the vino in a bit but…this party. You guyssssss, this party!
This was a Jurassic Pie Party, so-themed because I had dinosaur cookie cutters I really wanted to use. I decided that gingerbread dinosaurs would be exceptional parading across a pumpkin pie. I was so very right. Jungle-ish attire was suggested-I only rummaged up some leopard print but that’s okay.
We were also going to have a velociraptor dance contest. Somehow large amounts of pie(s), gingerbread cookies, Manhattans, and wine got in the way of that. But I’m sure there would have been some priceless velociraptor action if we actually got around to it.
I had cookie cutters for a t-rex, a velociraptor, a triceratops, a brontosaurus, a pterodactyl and my personal favorite, the stegosaurus. Since the upscale frito-crusted pie I’ve been perfecting is sort of tex-mex we re-christened the t-rex as a T-Mex. He listens to Ice-T. This pie was demolished rapidly, and the pumpkin pies and apple tart fell almost as fast.
Joel and I were pitting a couple of different pumpkin pies against each other. His was a classic condensed milk recipe and mine involved evaporated milk and sugar. We ended up agreeing one wasn’t necessarily better than the other because they are two different breeds of pie. Mine had a lot more spices and his was a bit lighter, I thought, and tasted more purely of pumpkin. So it all depends what you are after.
The biggest winner(s) of the night though were the gingerbread cookies. I usually have good luck with Baking Illustrated and seeing as their classic gingerbread is my favorite gingerbread, I figured they would not let me down in the gingerbread cookie department. Good lord did they not.
Another important thing learned was that if you want to give your stegosaurus candy corn spikes then you need to freeze the candy corn before baking so it does not melt and spread.
The dealio on the vino. They are made for Target. Oprah likes them. I like that vintner behind them, Alexis Swanson Traina is female. That is rare, being as the booze-world in general seems to be largely a boys club. That may just be my perspective, I dunno, but if you have proof that the ratio of women vintners to male is equal, I would like to see it.
These wines are the wine equivalent of shopping at Target: Too easily done and you will end up consuming more than you planned. All of which is to say I enjoyed the wine. Really, very pleasant wines. Juicy. Not very dinosaur-y. But that is okay. Sometimes it is about size.
The normally-sized bottle I received is called Help is Here: light bodied, some spice, berries, makes me think of eating fluffy gingerbread on a hill. Enjoyable. Mildly vegetal in a good way. Smooth. Sweet.
Both pair well with these wondrous cookies. This recipe makes a decent amount of them but they were devoured practically before the party started. Dinosaurs are not as filling as one would think.
Gingerbread Cookies adapted from Baking Illustrated from the folks behind America’s Test Kitchen
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (measured by stirring the flour then dipping the measuring cup in then leveling the top)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (the book say to use dark but light is all I had)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but still cool, sliced up
3/4 cup molasses (pro tip:grease your measuring cup first and it will m=be much easier to get all the molasses out)
2 Tbsp. milk (I used almond)
In a food processor, process the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt just to blend. Strew the butter pats over and process until it looks sandy, around 15 seconds. With machine running, pour in the molasses and milk slowly and process until evenly moistened and forming mass.
Scrape it out and divide in two. Roll out each part between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 of an inch (I did some thinner to make them crisp enough to stand up) then put them on a sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes until firmed up.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment. Take out your first section of dough. Remove top parchment paper then replace. Flip it over and flip and discard that parchment. Cut yer cookies and bake ten-ish minutes give or take. They will be set and if you stick a finger in one the impression will remain. But DO NOT over bake. Molasses is horrible when burnt.Let them cool on the sheet a couple of minutes then carefully transfer to racks. They will firm up more as they cool. Repeat over and over with the rest of the dough. Every time I rerolled scraps I had to stick them in the freezer again for a while so this is a process but it is worth it. I cooked these one sheet a a time. If you want to decorate with candy corn freeze the candy corn first or you will have a sugary melty mess. It will still taste good, if you are into straight up sugar which obviously I am since I like candy corn, but it will not retain the shape. So freeze it up. Bake it up. Do the dinosaur.