It’s day 4 of my cookie bake-a-thon…my glycemic index runneth over.
How long has it been since you opened a jar of molasses and took a big whiff? Well, that’s too long. I find it very easy to forget what molasses smells like, even if it’s only been a few days since I’ve smelled it. I just had to go get the jar again and take a big pull so I could remind you: it smells like a blend of dark-roast coffee and soy sauce. That doesn’t sound like a good idea for cookies. But molasses in ginger cookies? It’s necessary, in a big way.
For one thing, molasses gives the cookies their deep, toasty color. Brown sugar can’t get cookies that dark–it’s got to be molasses. But it also lends a soft chewiness to the finished cookies, and a complexity of flavor that thankfully isn’t exactly the same as its initial smell. The flavor is toasty, sharp, and slightly metallic, and it makes a good backdrop for a host of other spices. Regular sugar balances out the tannic quality of the molasses, and a generous coating of powdered sugar before baking ensures the kind of sweetness that you’d expect in a cookie. They will not taste like soy sauce.
My great-grandmother Sue used to make a cookie called Chocolate Crinkles every Christmas–actually, she’d make them all year-round. A few years ago I found this recipe for Ginger Crinkles in Mary Engelbreit’s Cookies Cookbook, and I loved the twist on one of my childhood faves. If you want a peppery kick, go ahead and add a little ground black pepper to the mix. I’ve adapted the recipe to include salt, which was missing from the original for some reason. One thing I’ve learned in years of baking cookies: you can’t have a good cookie without a pinch of salt. Some notes on the ease of this recipe: No mixer required! The saucepan you melt the butter and molasses in becomes your mixing bowl! Heads up: the dough needs to chill for 2 hours or overnight.
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ¼ cup unsulphured molasses
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves (I leave this out)
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar, for coating
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the molasses. Let cool. (The saucepan will be your mixing bowl.)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
- Whisk the eggs and vanilla into the cooled butter mixture, then stir in the dry ingredients until blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll pieces of dough into 1-inch balls. Coat generously with confectioners' sugar and set about 3 inches apart onto the baking sheets. (Leave them in their ball state, do not flatten.) Bake for about 14 minutes, or until the cookies have puffed up and sunk and are set around the edges. Let cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.