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.

Molasses-Ginger Cookies
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.


charlotte s said...

i really enjoy your blog, your posts are always beautifully written, your ingredients always unusual and inspiring! these cookies look delicious and im adding it to my list of things to try!

Anonymous said...

Yum! I literally just bought ginger snaps yesterday to experiment with ice cream sandwiches and realized just how much they remind me of fall. Last night we dunked them in Earl Grey tea (with a little bergamot) and half and half, and it was just heaven. Your care package recipients are VERY fortunate.

Anonymous said...

I think ginger cookies are a great care package item. Those are adorable packages! Mmm--Autumn.

Mercedes said...

Charlotte- what a wonderful compliment! I actually put this post up because I was worried I was doing too many recipes with weird ingredients (mate, dried limes, etc.) and it was time to do something a little more familiar.

Bri- yay, gingersnaps are great. One of my favorite ice cream sandwich combos is lemon sorbet with gingersnaps, lemon and ginger go so well together. (and yes, my package recipients are fortunate, but I'm fortunate to have them as friends!)

Jep- thanks, and yes, the cute boxes were a great inspiration to do some baking.

Anonymous said...

Mercedes, Ooooo lemon sorbet with ginger snaps. I don't know that I would have thought of that. Sounds delish. So good to have friends, what goes around comes around...

Paola Westbeek said...

Thanks for this recipe. I have some molasses in the cupboard that I should be using up so I'll definitely try these!


Quinne said...

These look wonderful! I have a brother-in-law who adores snaps and such, I'll bet he would love a batch of these. Happy Fall to you, too! Love, Q

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

I love these cookies, and I haven't sent a care package in years! Not since my cousin's childrens' first year at camp actually. I must get back into that and get myself some boxes like yours.

Anonymous said...

why is it necessary to use shortening?

Mercedes said...

Shortening prevents spreading. To be technical about it, shortening melts at a higher temperature, so the dough holds its shape longer in the oven, allowing the flour and eggs to set before the cookie collapses and spreads. Using butter produces a cookie that spreads out more; this problem is particularly noticeable with molasses cookies, because part of the sugar comes in a liquid/glucose form.
You can find good brands of shortening that are trans-fat free at many groceries.

Anonymous said...

I have some muscovado brown sugar sitting in my pantry needing to be used. These sound yummy! On my list of things to try (as an FYI, found you by way of Simply Recipes )

Tom said...

Hmm, not sure what I did wrong, but mine came out flat...very flat. They're very good though, and chewy. I'll have to give 'em another try sometime and see if the problem persists.

Mercedes said...

Hi Tom - I'm sooo sorry that happened. My first thought would be, is your baking soda fresh? The recipe is based on a very popular one (click), and I've never had any problems with flatness. The other things would be to make sure you chilled them thoroughly and to use the requisite shortening. I hope you'll check the bkg soda and try again, though I'm glad you enjoyed them anyway.

Barbara said...

Molasses, cinnamon, ginger, and lemon are ALL HIGHLY BENEFICIAL FOR PEOPLE WITH BLOOD TYPE A.
Buckwheat flour is also HIGHLY BENEFICIAL. Is there anyway we could use some buckwheat flour in this recipe.

Green tea with lemon and honey
would be tasty also with these cookies I think. Lemon sorbet sounds heavenly as well. YUMMY

I've been searching the web for weeks looking for an exceptional ginger molasses cookie.

Katie said...

Hi there! I just tried making these, and I'd agree with the flat comment. Also, these were, well, kind of salty. They had a weird taste to them, and I can't put my finger on it. Probably my fault, but I was wondering if I was missing some vital information... I was so looking forward to these :(

Kathryn said...

Hi My name is also Kathryn. I am Kathryn Stewart Coluzzi. I wanted to thank you for the wonderful blog. I grew up in Tunisia where many of the recipes you provide were part of my childhood. My family later moved to Asia. Where Mid Eastern and North African cuisine were impossible to find. Finally I am in the USA and am so delighted to have discovered your
recipes Could you tell me how to use Eau de Fleur D'Orange and Rose Water in baking? The small bottles of flavoring I do find available generally have too much of a candy taste. Thank you again for the excellent recipes and your interesting blog.

Kathryn said...

Great cookies and authentic, real, non artificial flavors. Shame some people grow up on processed food and convenience items then don't know what the original ingredients taste like. I appreciate your blog. Please tell us how to use rose water and Eau de Fleur D'Orange. I don't know if my blogs are posting correctly, apologies if my remarks appear more than once. I am not the critical Kathryn who didn't like your cookies. My family loves them.
Thanks, I am
Kathryn Stewart-Coluzzi

Unknown said...

where do you get the package you put the cookies in? great presentation!