Molasses cookies, why so glum? Too often, they are dismayed at having to share the same display case or cookie box with their more conspicuous and highly-celebrated counterparts. Enter the usual suspects- the chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, white chip macadamia, peanut butter, even that short-lived seasonal cookie; the molasses lives in the shadows of such touted favorites. Perhaps the heady, bold flavors and spice of the molasses are a bit overwhelming for some. Or maybe what ruined it was there was just one too many commercial “ginger molasses crisps” out there that tasted and looked more like hardtack than a cookie. I was guilty of such intimidations; as a child, faced with the decision between a buttery shortbread cookie and a dark, lackluster molasses, the choice was obvious.
My first eye-opening experience, or rather, tastebud-opening, with the molasses cookie actually involved a Starbuck’s. After ordering a PB cookie, I was mistakenly given the molasses, and reluctantly I nibbled. I remember the immediate sweetness, not cloying, but deep and rich, like a good caramel. The cloves and cinnamon hit my palate next, spicy, but balanced out by the tons of butter that’d probably been used for the dough. This entire time, I had been missing out. Perhaps it was a sign that I was entering adult cookie-dom, no more frosted sugar cookies or animal crackers (but don’t count on it).
Since then, I’ve always enjoyed making different versions of the molasses cookie- some recipes use ginger, others less but with more cinnamon and allspice; playing with the dough to get the right texture also took a few trials to get right. I’ve eaten my way through thin and crispy, soft and chewy, soft and cakelike, and stick-to-your-teeth chewy. One of my favorite versions, that produces consistent results time and again, is a recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. According to the book, these cookies are one of their most popular treats. I strongly concur, as everytime I’ve made these large, saucer-like cookies, they turn out deliciously rich, spicy, and nuanced with flavor. Crispy around the edges, with a chewy center, just the way I like.
Nowadays, more often than not, I’ll choose the molasses over any old chocolate chip, and especially if they’re homemade. What it lacks in flamboyance, it makes up for with personality. That alone, should sell itself.
from The Silver Palate Cookbook
12 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt the butter, and add in sugar and molasses.
3. Lightly beat the egg and add to the butter mixture, blending well.
4. Sift the dry ingredients together, and add to the butter mixture. (It will look wet.)
5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
6. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheet, 3 inches apart (they will spread out).
7. Bake 8-10 minutes, until the cookies darken.
8. Remove parchment from cookie sheet, and let the cookies cool on the paper, or a rack.