I’m about to let you in on a family secret and give you this cookie recipe. I shared these cookies with my sister and my dad. They both had the same independent reaction: “Are these just regular molasses cookies?”
Yes. The answer is yes. They, like you, Oh Faithful Reader, are used to me taking traditional recipes and tinkering with them. No, we can’t just have pumpkin pie, we need a Curry Anise Pumpkin Tart. And how about we turn Mom’s rice pudding into Coconut Mango Rice Pudding? Sure.
But I don’t screw around with Molasses Cookies. I had the thought, trust me. I’ve seen chocolate molasses cookies and thought maybe I’d try that. For about two seconds before I realized that’s the worst idea ever. There is a time and a place for chocolate. That time is not now, and that place is nowhere near this sacred recipe.
I also thought about putting candied ginger into them because I have a crush on candied ginger in the most embarrassingly obvious way. But I had to push these wicked notions aside and continue on the path of righteousness. The path of Molasses Cookie purity.
There are some traditions you just don’t mess with, and most of them come around the holiday season. You don’t skip watching The Muppet Christmas Carol every year after Thanksgiving dinner, for example, even if your husband bitches and moans about it. You don’t forgo eating massive quantities of stuffing just because you’re trying to eat healthier. You don’t abstain from sneaking downstairs on Christmas Eve to look at your presents under the tree even though you are a 25-year-old woman who should not be that excited about gifts. I refuse to stop doing any of these things, and I refuse to change these cookies.
Here is the thing about this recipe. It is perfect. It never fails me. It is the beacon in the night of baking failures. These cookies are the surefire way to get my dad to smile the closed-lip smile of a deeply contented man. These cookies won over my husband, who had never even heard of them before I came along and enlightened him. These cookies made two children cry… but that was mostly because kids are stupid and don’t like molasses.
I have changed precious little from the original recipe card that resides in my parents’ house. I altered the amount of flour for accuracy’s sake, since my family packs flour straight into dry measuring cups like a bunch of heathens. I use Spectrum organic shortening rather than Crisco, and blackstrap molasses instead of Grandma’s original (don’t get me wrong, both of those are fine to use, they just aren’t what I typically buy). And I bake them at a slightly lower temperature so they spread a tiny bit more. The result is perfectly uniform cookies, every. single. time.
I’ve thought often about trying to use butter (my first love) instead of shortening in this recipe, but I mostly feel like if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If I were more interested in researching the science, I would do trials of these cookies using solid butter, melted butter, solid shortening, and melted shortening and see what (if any) difference it makes. But as it stands at the moment, I’m simply interested in eating a delicious cookie.
- ¾ cups (145 grams) shortening
- 2⅓ cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling
- ¼ cup (88 grams) molasses
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Preheat oven to 350° F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.
- Melt shortening in a saucepan over medium heat, then remove from heat to cool slightly.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix melted shortening, 1 cup (200 grams) sugar, molasses, egg, and baking soda until combined.
- Add dry ingredients to molasses mixture and mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and mix by hand for a couple of turns to make sure everything is incorporated.
- Scoop dough with a medium food disher (#40 or about 1½ tablespoons) and roll into balls with your hands. Pour about 3 tablespoons granulated sugar into a small bowl. Roll each dough ball in sugar and place on lined baking sheets.
- Bake 11-13 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.