21 September 2007
Molasses-Ginger Cookies for Fall
I don't know about you, but I am so invigorated by fall. The slight crispness in the air, still warm but with a hint of chill, and it seems that light falls in the house in a whole different way that I find newly beautiful. There is a school several blocks from my house, but through some strange configuration of sound waves, I am able to hear the sounds from it's playing field in perfect sharpness through my bathroom window. Standing before the mirror at 8 a.m. I hear the children's shouts, the teacher's whistle.
In my mind, fall is a time of return. A return to school, to work, a return to the sweaters you packed away all summer, to meetings and plans, to the warmth of an old boyfriend's sweatshirt. Girls stand at the bus stop in their pressed school uniforms carrying new notebooks and I'm almost (but not quite) nostalgic for my own school days. It's a time when the leaves return to the ground and when we begin to return to our own kitchens, returning to the soups and stews that we avoided for most of the summer.
For me, it's also a return to baking and to my regular care package sending. Summer presents a challenge to anyone who likes to send homemade goodies through the mail, the potential of your package sitting all afternoon in 100 degree heat is not an appealing thought, chocolate is out of the question. Molasses ginger cookies, however, are just right for the early hint of fall.
For years I've struggled over molasses cookies, mine were tasty, but never quite right. Fancy cakes, delicate macarons, those I can master, but finding a recipe that produced the molasses cookie of my dreams eluded me (that dream cookie, by the way, produced by a little bakery in Maine we visit every summer). Finally, I've found a recipe I'm satisfied with, and it's got two important points. One, you have to use shortening. Two, do not over-bake the cookies, you want the insides to stay meltingly soft, so as soon as the outsides are set and crackly, take them out.
On a final note, those boxes are part of a little kit for packaging homemade treats and were a great birthday gift from my mom (thanks!). I plan on putting them to serious use around the holidays, and in some more care packaging coming very soon.
Of all cookies, the molasses-type is one of my favorites. Sometimes I like to make them on the smaller side (like in the photo), but often I like them big, jumbo cookie monsters, you'll want to adjust your baking time accordingly. Also, it's important to use shortening to prevent spreading, look for one that's free of trans fats.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar (preferably muscovado)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/3 cup molasses
demerrara sugar for rolling
1. Combine the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger. In a large bowl using an electric mixer beat shortening and butter to combine, add brown sugar and beat until well-combined and fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease/line 2 baking sheets. Spoon sugar in thick layer onto small plate. Using wet hands, form dough into 2-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart, flatten slightly.
3. Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to touch and moist inside, about 10-12 minutes (do not overbake). Cool on sheets 1 minute. Carefully transfer to racks and cool.