December 18, 2008

Chewy Molasses Cookies

My Christmas cookie baking is in full swing and these chewy molasses cookies are always the first on my list. My parents and I discovered this recipe on a trip to Pennsylvania's Fort Necessity National Battlefield. While there we stopped in at the Mount Washington Tavern where we had our first taste of these cookies and snagged a handout with the recipe. This was back in 1980 and I can't remember a Christmas without them since.

These are chewy cookies with a strong molasses flavor and are mildly spiced. I used pearl sugar on them this year but more often we roll them in large crystal sugar. You can use regular granulated sugar but you'll lose the exterior crunch that the larger decorating sugars give. Another change I made this year is to swap the blackstrap molasses for some Muddy Pond sorghum "molasses" I picked up in Tennesse. I couldn't resist the picture of their horse drawn mill. It's tarter but milder in flavor than blackstrap molasses. It was good in the cookies but next year I'm going back to blackstrap, I'm just a strong molasses nut. These cookies are the first on my baking list because they keep so well but they do need to be closed up tightly in a cookie tin or they will get hard and crunchy. They're still good hard and crunchy but it's just not the same. However you make them, I hope these make it into your Christmas cookie collection. (And I hope Alex doesn't find out where I hid the cookie tins. He's eaten nearly a dozen already!)

Chewy Molasses Cookies
Based on a recipe from the Mount Washington Tavern in Farmington, Pennsylvania.
Makes 4 dozen 2-inch diameter cookies

2 cups flour (I use 1 1/2 cups all-purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt (1/4 teaspoon if using salted butter or margarine)
3/4 cup unsalted butter (Earth Balance here)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
~1/2 cup of sanding/decorating sugar, coarse raw sugar, pearl sugar or more granulated sugar for rolling

-Sift together the flour(s), baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Set aside.
-Beat the butter (or EB) and sugar together until light in color.
-Add the egg and molasses and beat until encorporated, scraping the bowl 1-2 times. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
-Cover the dough with plastic wrap and shape into an even rectangle or square. Chill for at least 4 hours.
-After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
-Line two cookie sheets with parchment and fill a bowl with the decorating sugar of your choice.
-Remove half of the block of dough from the refridgerator and cut into 24 equal sized cubes (~1-inch square). Roll each cube into a ball and coat with the decorating sugar. Place on the cookie sheets with plenty of space between each cookie. Give them more than an inch and a half between each ball, these spread a good deal.
-Bake for 7-9 minutes. Cookies will still be very soft and puffy with a lightly browned bottom.
-Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough.
-Store in a tightly closed cookie tin to keep them chewy.

Whiskers on kittens are nice... But one of my favorite things is pink kitten toes.I think I have inadvertently trained Abbie to come to the call of the camera shutter.

I'm adding this to Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event. This is her second season of collecting Christmas cookie recipes. To see her ever growing collection take a look at:

Eat Christmas Cookies Roundup Part 1 and Part 2