I grew up thinking sugar cookies were the poor man’s version of molasses cookies. Both sparkle with baked-in sugar, but sugar cookies pale, literally, in comparison to the gingery brown sugar and molasses bite of my grandmother’s holiday cookie.
When my grandmother passed away thirteen years ago, we discovered that she had not one but upwards of 8 different recipes for our favorite cookies in her recipe box, all titled “molasses cookie”.
True, they had been puffy and soft at times and crisp and chewy at others, but they had always been fantastically spicy and warm so it never occurred to us that there wasn’t one definitive recipe.
I had copied down one version last time I was home and discovered that it was missing the teaspoon amount for ground ginger. Comparing it to similar recipes online, I discovered that Paula Deen had the exact same recipe (with the specified 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger).
I was stumped.
The Food Network didn’t exist during my grandmother’s time.
Really, it was a lovely discovery. Clearly this recipe has withstood time and tasting enough to make its way into the permanent collections of one woman baking in Cleveland, Ohio and another baking 20 years later in Savannah, Georgia. Part of me would love to know its source—was it a woman’s magazine, a classic cookbook, a bake-sale favorite?— but I’m not putting too much effort into it.
It’s a family recipe.
One with a delicate crunch and velvety brown-spiced middles.
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Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup molasses (unsulfured)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 sheet trays with parchment paper. Pour about 1 cup of granulated sugar in a shallow bowl for rolling the cookies before baking.
2. Sift the next 7 ingredients (flour through salt) together in a large bowl. Stir until the spices are evenly distributed throughout the flour.
3. In another large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the brown sugar, oil and molasses until well combined, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and continue mixing on low speed until combined, about 1 minute more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatuala. Continue mixing and slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing until completely combined. Mix in the crystallized ginger. The dough will still be very sticky.
4. Using a mini ice cream scoop, add dough to the bowl of granulated sugar one scoop at a time. Use your fingers to roll the ball in the sugar until covered then place on the prepared baking sheet, pressing lightly on the top of the ball with two fingers to flatten the cookie. Repeat with remaining dough, adding more granulated sugar to the bowl as needed.
5. Bake until the crinkles are just hard and crinkly on the outside but still soft and cakey on the inside, almost not done enough, 7 minutes only. They will harden considerably as they cool. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan then transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool to the touch. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Yield: about 36 cookies