2.12.2009

'tis the season

molasses cookie towers

It recently occurred to me that, this winter season, I neither baked nor consumed a single holiday cookie.

November, December, and January all came and went, and not one festive macaroon, not a glassy grain of red sugar, not even a severed little gingerbread appendage passed my lips. But then came February, and with it, one last chance for season's eatings. I speak of that holy day that transcends all faiths and religions, and unifies Americans everywhere under the banner of chili dogs and over the top commercials: Super Bowl Sunday. (Football is another centerpiece of the festivities, or so I hear.)

Our friends Stephanie and Yehuda host a yearly Super Bowl party where food gets top billing. These fine folks have their priorities straight, and their amazing eats attract a hungry crowd of celebrants for whom football is merely the sideshow. In addition to the traditional wings and hot dogs, this year's spread featured a selection of chilies, including a super-spicy version to honor ten glorious years of Super Bowl parties past. And then there was The Condiment Table, an entire table devoted to sauces, relishes, and krauts. Ketchup and mustard sat proudly on display, ready and willing to dress the waiting hot dogs and buns. No hot dog went unclothed. Mine was so well-attired, in fact, that the hot dog and bun disappeared beneath a mountain of sauerkraut and chili. Only the nubby tail end poked out from underneath. A quick word about sauerkraut, if I may: Having been placed on The Condiment Table, the sauerkraut was squarely situated in the category of "Just a few spoonfuls, please, so that there's enough to go around." Otherwise, I surely would have helped myself to a big heaping bowl of the stuff. I love it. In my book, sauerkraut is no more a mere condiment than whipped cream is simply a dessert topping. Both, I feel, should be eaten on their own, and in copious quantities. (Separate bowls though, please.)

You have been patient indeed, dear ones, to stay with me through all this talk of sauerkraut and hot dogs when what I promised you was cookies. Onward.

Sometime later in the evening, The Condiment Table underwent a stunning transformation into something even more alluring. It became - I think you can see where this is going - The Dessert Table. Two big plates of golden cookies stared up at me from the center of the table. This was my chance. At long last, it was cookie time. Never mind that these spicy molasses numbers were about a month overdue. They could have held their own on a platter of Christmas cookies any day, including a snowy, Super Bowl Sunday in early February. With their ginger-y bite and sprinkling of sugar, these chewy rounds brought my cookie famine to a delicious, welcome close.

With a little sleuthing, I found out that my friend Carrie was the baker behind these molasses lovelies. Thank you, thank you, Carrie, for a much-needed cookie fix, and for passing along the recipe.

I consumed. I baked. I consumed again.

Better late than never.

molasses cookies
Molasses Cookies
from Gourmet, November 1995
adapted by my friend Carrie's friend, Dalia

4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
2 1/4 t. baking soda
2 t. ground ginger
1 1/4 t. ground cloves
1 1/4 t. cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, room temperature (or use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks for a darn good dairy-free version)
1/2 c. vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat free; I use Spectrum)
1 c. plus 1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. unsulphured molasses
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 2 large baking sheets.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, shortening, 1 c. sugar and 1 c. brown sugar, until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses, and then the eggs, one at a time. Gradually beat in the flour mixture and combine well.

Pour the remaining 1/2 c. sugar into a small shallow bowl. Form the dough into balls (I use 1 T. of dough per cookie) and roll in sugar. Arrange the dough balls on the baking sheets 3-4 inches apart - the cookies will spread as they bake - and flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar. (I accidentally forgot this step when I prepared the first batch, but they still came out fine. They were just a little crinkly on top, like a newly spread bed sheet before a smoothing sweep of the hand.)

Bake for approximately 13 minutes, until the cookies are slightly puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. The cookies will be quite soft when you first take them out of the oven, but will firm to chewy perfection as they cool.

Makes 76 cookies.

3 comments:

Yaffa said...

I have, first hand, tasted these cookies and they are perfection!
Jessica, you have such a good baker!
YUM! They were so good.

Jess said...

Thanks so much for the endorsement, Yaffa! I'm very happy to hear that the cookies arrived safely at your door.

Yaffa said...

Yes, they taste like oatmeal raisin cookies without the raisin and a spritz of sour- but in a great way! The ginger adds so much to the cookies- and I am no fan of ginger!
These were amazing!!!