Tuesday, March 1, 2011
A New Tradition
Traditions are fascinating things. There are some that are born in a very, well, traditional, way. I have recipes that my mother makes and that her mother made before her: Thanksgiving stuffing, Marinara sauce and Caesar salad are some of my sacred family recipes. I know we all have a treasure trove of these. But then there are others that are born more organically, the ones that become our new traditions and our future grandchildren’s traditions. New Traditions sounds wrong, but how would any tradition become one if it were not at some point new? I’m reminded of the Velveteen Rabbit and his quest to become real: he was not inherently real, but with time and love he became real. Many recipes enter our lives, but only a select few make it through the years and are made your own, your traditions.
Molasses spice cookies are one of my new traditions. I stumbled upon the recipe in a cookie cookbook about ten years ago. I love gingerbread and gingersnaps, so these immediately appealed to me. I started making them one winter, then stopped until it was cold again the next year. (I love gingerbread and spices, but they definitely have their seasonal place.) I suppose it was the second or third season that I answered their siren song that they were officially part of my collection, and not just some passing recipe that I was temporarily enamored of. I began tweaking, adding fresh ginger, then crystallized ginger, and then deciding against the crystallized ginger after all. I was making it my own.
Somewhere along the way I acquired a molasses spice cookie bowl. It is a simple yellow melamine bowl with a pour spout, medium sized, likely the lone remainder of someone’s wedding set. It came to me from my roommate Brooke, whom I lived with after college, and didn’t make it to her new home with her when she got married. So I inherited the yellow bowl, at least its third owner, and this is the bowl I always use to make these cookies. They need to chill in the fridge, and I like that this bowl is not as heavy as a ceramic one, and since my fridge is always packed to the gills, I can stack this on something else without squishing anything.
One of my favorite things about these cookies is that you pretty much make them in a pot. I would not be very convincing if I told you other cookies are difficult, but these are really, really easy. They are good after school or work cookies and have less clean up than other kinds, and they make the house smell wonderfully of spices and warmth while they bake. Trust me: on a cold, dark winter evening, you want a batch of these warming up your home.
My husband and I love to eat them in the evening with a cup of rooibos tea with milk and sugar. It is a comforting way to spend an evening, the kind where weight disappears off of your shoulders. They are that kind of cookie, the forgetting-troubles kind, which is really the best kind of all. I suppose this is why Molasses Spice Cookies have been elevated from a good cookie to a tradition. I look forward to making them for my children and grandchildren, and hope that one day they, too, will end a long day with a cup of tea and a cookie.
Molasses Spice Cookies
These cookies need to chill for an hour in the fridge, but the good news is that once they’re in the fridge, you can leave them there and bake them a batch at a time if you really like warm-from-the-oven cookies. However, these last well and I think they taste better after a few days. I have used both dark unsulphured molasses as well as light, and both turned out well.
1.5 sticks butter, melted
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
¼ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once there is enough butter to coat the bottom of the pan, add the fresh ginger, and continue to stir and melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the molasses and vanilla. Allow to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with 1 cup of sugar, the baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
Add the beaten egg to the cooled butter mixture. Whisk to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, stirring until all of the flour is combined. Press plastic wrap over the dough and up the sides of the bowl and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to work into balls, at least an hour or overnight (they will hold for up to a week in the fridge if you are making them ahead).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Put the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in a small bowl. Scoop out tablespoon sized pieces and roll into balls. Roll the balls in the sugar to coat and place on the baking sheets about 1.5 inches apart.
Bake for about 14 minutes (a little less if you like them very soft or up to a minute or two longer if you like them crisp). Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for a few days, or freeze for a few weeks.
Yield about 48 cookies.